Meth Trade and Stolen Artifacts

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Meth dealers and addicts have found a destructive way to get money for drugs: by looting artifacts and selling them on the black market. The March-April issue of Archaeology Magazine explores this nexus of antiquities and drugs and finds that “twiggers,” a combination of “diggers” and meth addicted “tweakers,” are fueling “a new epidemic of looting” especially in the American southwest.

The compulsive effects of methamphetamine make it an ideal drug for the repetitive and tedious work of artifact hunting, according to the article (not available online). Since the meth addicts generally have little knowledge of the artifacts, the process of digging them up can be particularly destructive. And since the artifacts are seldom traceable, convictions are extremely hard to come by.

Phil Young, a former agent with the National Parks Service, described one operation saying, “it was a very destructive process to the cultural resource, and of course to the individuals as well.”

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