Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
To whom does the past belong? Is the archeologist who discovers a lost tomb a sort of hero--or a villain? If someone steals a relic from a museum and returns it to the ruin it came from, is she a thief? Written in his trademark lyrical style, Craig Childs's riveting new book is a ghost story--an intense, impassioned investigation into the nature of the past and the things we leave behind. We visit lonesome desert canyons and fancy Fifth Avenue art galleries, journey throughout the Americas, Asia, the past and the present. The result is a brilliant book about man and nature, remnants and memory, a dashing tale of crime and detection.
precious, a tangible, almost private record of the past. Keep it for a few thousand years and it will be priceless. Why? Rarity and time. Year by year our possessions vanish. We lose the bows and arrows, the buffalo coins, the rotary telephones. Only a select, sometimes accidental few make it through the breach, and those few take on meaning from the stories they carry. Even the pothunters who had been here were a piece of history in themselves. They were probably like me: adventure-seeking
Aurel Stein, one of the world’s greatest archaeological explorers, came riding out of a red-sky windstorm into Kashgar, in Chinese Turkistan. Dust poured from tucks in his tightly folded coat, making him look more like a local Taklamakanchi than a scholar. His square, stern face was powerfully weathered, his cheekbones standing out like polished stones. He kept the small crease of his mouth clamped shut against the wind. Standing a staunch five foot four, Stein was at the midpoint of sixteen
thousand objects that Mexico’s National Anthropology Institute says have been sent back to Mexico from the United States and Canada over a five-year period. I have traveled in the source region of most of the ceramics the Coopers hold. It’s why I had come to their house. I wanted to see where the pots had gone. All along the flanks of the Sierra Madre Occidental the looting damage is difficult to miss. I found one canyon full of big adobe cliff dwellings that looked as if someone had taken a
pots in the kitchen; the Coopers’ refrigerator was topped by a row of painted jars, all bird effigies, likenesses of macaws and parrots that reminded me of the tawdry chickens and roosters you often see in American kitchens. I asked him what he would eventually do with it all. Art turned to me and pleaded, “This collection has to be taken as a whole, a sum of its parts. I don’t want it piecemealed.” One has to wonder what was piecemealed to get these artifacts together in the first place. How
back and touched the curve of it. We took it out, photographed it, spent a couple of days sketching and admiring it, then put it back, with no mention that we were there. One person who roams the area around the Colorado River in Utah likes to slide curt little communiqués into artifacts: You were not the first to find this. Please leave it the way it was when you got here. Sometimes I am a bit put off when I find this memorandum, this note claiming possession of a site, clearly reading Mine!