Addicted to Archaeology

Meth and Archaeology

image by Peter O. Zierlein

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Greed has long driven looters to rip Native American artifacts from the ground and sell them on the black market. Now, a new fuel is driving the illegal trade: methamphetamine. An increasing number of meth heads are turning up in the looting trade, reports Archaeology (March-April 2009), and these “twiggers” (tweakers plus diggers) aren’t always lone wolves. One National Park Service probe turned up a network of them linked by a single dealer.

Meth addicts’ twitchy energy suits them to the task, the magazine writes. “They have the steam to wander sites and dig holes for hours, the focus to scan the ground closely, and the compulsive need to find more and more.” An unfortunate side effect of the meth link for archaeologists: When drugs are involved in a case, “looting offenses take a back seat to drug charges.”