FBI Returns Pre-Columbian Artifacts to Panama

Man, I love it when the news comes from a government press release. They give great backstory and sometimes (like this time), killer pictures.

In this case, the FBI returned over a hundred pre-Columbian artifacts to the government of Panama yesterday, including pottery and gold jewelry.

The FBI’s investigation revealed that the widow of an amateur archeologist was storing the items in and around Klamath Falls, Oregon. The investigation showed that the individual acquired many of the items while working as a teacher on a U.S. military base in Panama during the 1980s. It was also during this time that he married his wife, then a Panamanian citizen. The two brought many of the items with them when they moved back to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Over the years, the couple sold some of the items at various markets and on the Internet. The Klamath Falls man died of natural causes in October 2004. No charges are expected.

That’s one way to enhance your retirement funds, I suppose: loot for few years, get that “How to Sell on E-bay” book and go to town.

Panama has strict laws against antiquities ownership. Not only is stealing artifacts against the law, ownership of any kind is against the law. If it’s an antique from Panama it belongs to the government of Panama, full stop.

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8 Comments »

Comment by Katherine
2009-01-15 13:32:36

Are strict laws like that good, because they protect antiques from loss or damage or is that a bit difficult? I mean, what constitutes an antique? can you own something for years, and then it suddenly becomes too old and you have to give it to the government? :confused:

Comment by livius drusus
2009-01-15 13:41:46

I don’t think so. As far as I know, the law mainly applies to people trying to take antiquities out of the country. I’ll see if I can find the specifics.

 
 
Comment by Jamie
2009-03-19 23:35:43

In this case the man worked for the DOD, was stationed in Panama, and married a Panamanian woman. The artifacts were acquired through huaqueros and shipped through army customs as heirlooms. I know this because I live in Klamath Falls and knew John Shaw, who was good friends with Mel Fisher(the man who found the Atocha).

Realize that this all happened over 30 years ago, at a time when archaeology wasn’t nearly as complicated as it is now. Many people with a genuine interest were merely practicing a hobby they enjoyed, like the founder of the Favell museum here in Klamath, who by todays standards is nothing more than a grave robber.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-03-20 10:52:43

True this. My father lived in Peru during the 60’s and he came away with several ancient artifacts that were given to him as gifts from business associates. Even the most patriotic people didn’t have the sensibility of protecting their own cultural patrimony like they do today.

 
 
Comment by BS
2010-12-29 17:05:04

WHAT A BUNCH OF (&&%^!!!!!! ALL THESE PIECES WERE INTRODUCED TO USA LLEGALY, SHOWED FBI LEGAL DOCUMENTS FROM THE US GOVERMENT OF A LIST OF INVENTORY OF THESE PIECES PACKED BY US MILITARY WHEN HUSBAND RETIRED IN 1993 AND MOVED BACK TO THE STATES!! US GOVERMENT PAID THE SHAWS FOR BROKEN ARTIFACTS WHEN THEY ARRIVED HERE IN OREGON.!!!
THE EX BOYFRIEND CALLED FBI GETTING EVEN WITH THE EX GIRLFRIEND (WIDOW) AFTER GOT KICKED OUT OF THIS HOUSE AFTER GOT CAUGHT TRYING TO STEAL DEAD HUSBAND’S BELONGINGS!!;)
NOTE: THREE PIECES OF GOLD WERE REAL THE REST WERE REPRODUCTION. THE NEWSPAPER PICTURES ARE REPRODUCTION BOUGHT AT THE HUACA JEWELRY STORE IN PANAMA, WAS FUNNY TO SEE FBI POSSING WITH THESE PIECES AS REAL PIECES;) THE PICTURES ABOVE THE FROG AND THE NOSE RING ARE NOT REAL!!!!!;) VERY FUNNY UH!!!!!!!!

 
Comment by Brucelee
2011-03-14 10:45:12

It should be noted also that at the time these “artifacts” were brought to the U.S. that it WAS NOT illegal since the treaty covering this was not established until many years later.

It should also be noted that Panama did not and does not yet have a serious interest or a program to take care of these items. Items returned very possibly will be sold to a private citizen so someone in the government can profit.

Comment by livius drusus
2011-03-14 11:10:49

Yes, it was illegal, and it had been for years. The Panama Constitution (ratified in 1972) and a specific law from 1982 make the mere private ownership of archaeological artifacts illegal. Exporting them without permission is even more so.

 
 
Comment by Anonymous
2013-12-04 08:43:15

i think this is good and bad because what if someone takes them again and they are never found for others to see.

 
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