Thursday, March 26, 2009

Looting and Meth

Archaeology magazine is running a piece on how the looting of archaeological sites in New Mexico is driven in large part by meth. Tweakers are apparently digging up sites and actually using pots and other artifacts to purchase drugs. Some choice quotes:
In the Southwest, antiquities are what a stolen car stereo might be in New York--an untraceable commodity of the criminal underground. "This is what the West has, so this is what the West gives up for its drugs," says N. Artifacts can be looted from remote public lands near impoverished communities with acute drug problems, and there is an infrastructure of shady galleries and trading posts that can "launder" them for sale. A kind of strange synergy is developing with meth in particular that puts every archaeological site and collection at greater risk. Law enforcement officials in the Southwest even have a term for those who combine tweaking and digging--"twiggers."
Wow. "Twiggers."

Though well done and interesting, the piece does stray into offensive territory, as in the following:
Most of his cases come from the poverty-stricken trailer parks of Farmington, Bloomfield, and Aztec in the state's archaeology-rich northwest corner.
I happen to be from that area, and my Dad lives in Aztec. Characterizing Farmington, Bloomfied, and Aztec as drug- and crime-ridden slums is really a bit much. Farmington, especially, is really a boom town, at least until the price of natural gas fell off a cliff recently, and the Farmington unemployment rate is well below the national average.