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Lava River Cave Looters Convicted

Lava River Cave, located on the Deschutes National Forest, was looted late in 1989. The "thieves of time" were seeking to remove significant and scientifically important archaeological artifacts. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers, staff archaeologists, and the U.S. Attorney's office led an investigation that bore fruit this past month.

The defendants, Michael Scott Barker II (LaPine, Ore.), Charles Thomas Foster (Rocklin, Calif.), and Jerry D. Chapman (Cheyenne, Wyo.) were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore. to one count each of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Each of the individuals was placed on three years probation and ordered to pay a $25 fee assessment. In addition, Barker and Foster were fined $1,000 each and Chapman was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service in lieu of a fine. All defendants are prohibited from becoming involved in archaeological activity without the permission of their probation officer.

Archaeological sites throughout central Oregon are threatened by looting and vandalism. Federal land management agencies vigorously pursue these investigations not only to apprehend suspects, but also to deter future illegal activity.

According to Paul Clayssens, Deschutes National Forest archaeologist, "This sends a clear message that it is not okay to loot archaeological sites. The site they dug into resulted not just in the theft of artifacts but the destruction of the archaeological context, the soil matrix that contain valuable information on archaic climates, environments, and how people adapted to them. It is this kind of information that is so significant, not just to archaeologists, but those concerned with the larger questions relating to how we humans adapt to and change environments."

Others are outraged as well. American Indian heritage is at risk. "It shows a disrespect to American Indian people and their culture," said Jim Coburn, tribal liaison for the Forest Service and BLM in central Oregon.

According to Tom Pilling, president of the Archaeological Society of Oregon (ASCO), "we are concerned as private citizens about the damage a few individuals can do to our area's history." ASCO is embarking on a site stewardship program with the Deschutes National Forest to monitor sensitive archaeological sites and prevent such looting. Pilling invites those interested people to join his organization. "We have an open invitation to new members. ASCO does more than protect sites; we get involved in ongoing field research, sponsor field trips, present programs to local schools, and most of all, have fun!" Contact Tom Pilling (503) 548-5716, ASCO c/o COEC, 16 NW Kansas, Bend, OR 97701.

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