Meth And Arrowheads

Addicts loot artifacts from public lands for meth money

Coming just after the news that our national parks are besieged by Mexican cartel pot farms comes an even more bizarre tidbit: In public lands across the country, meth addicts make it a habit to steal Indian and prehistoric artifacts, which they then sell on the black market to bankroll their labs.

Rather than risk breaking in to a car or holding up a 7-11, some rural meth addicts have taken to amateur archaeology; if they're lucky enough to find a store of buried or lost artifacts, they can sell them in a thriving illegal antiquities market that spends $5 to 6 billion worldwide on ill-gotten prehistoric goods.

Looters use the Internet and other sources to find potential burial sites, but most interesting of all, the psychotropic effects of meth might actually encourage artifact finding. Meth addicts often engage in compulsive behavior while high—behavior perfectly suited to the repetitive, focused work of sifting through tons of dirt and detritus looking for ancient relics.

"You get kind of wired on that stuff and you need to have something to do," [Tony] Young said. It's the tedium of the search and the focus it requires that makes it an attractive hobby to meth users, Young said ... "[H]ead hunting" filled his need for activity when he was on meth.

Law enforcement officials have been asking why they continually find porn and arrowheads at meth labs, and now that they've found a connection, the discovery could aid in stopping antiquities theft.

Interesting factoid: Not all meth addicts were burnouts in high school. When one meth addict/Indiana Jones-wannabe was questioned by a Washington State Parks ranger, he told him that he knew where to find artifacts because "he'd been paying attention in high school history class." Score one for public education!

—Ted Alvarez

Indiana Jones, meth addict (Crosscut)