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Unauthorized cultural resource alterations range from looting and grave robbing to contract violations and wildland fires. Such alterations degrade cultural resources’ spiritual, communal, ecological, economic, and scientific values. Alterations often violate communal senses of place, security, and belonging. Alterations complicate jurisdiction-specific management, which is premised on up-to-date information on resource sizes, conditions, and significance. Cultural resource damage assessment protocols based on proven forensic practices distil to eight fieldwork steps: verify the alteration, assemble the team, survey the scene, document the evidence, gather the evidence, assess the archaeological value and the cost of repair and restoration, prescribe emergency remediation, and confirm evidence documentation and custody. The eight steps give special consideration to local communities and Indigenous Territories, where unauthorized alterations are as common as they are elsewhere, whereas impacts to spiritual and cultural values are generally greater. Adapted to jurisdiction- and incident-specific circumstances, the steps will guide responses to alterations by community leaders, land managers, regulators, law enforcement agents, and archaeologists, including preparation of excellent damage assessment reports. Damage assessment practitioners and land managers should refine these practices to deter alterations, engage Tribes and other affected communities, halt postalteration degradation, ensure accountability, and enable jurisdiction-scale curation of cultural resources and their unique value constellations.
A 2018 workshop on the White Mountain Apache Tribe lands in Arizona examined ways to enhance investigations into cultural property crime (CPC) through applications of rapidly evolving methods from archaeological science. CPC (also looting, graverobbing) refers to unauthorized damage, removal, or trafficking in materials possessing blends of communal, aesthetic, and scientific values. The Fort Apache workshop integrated four generally partitioned domains of CPC expertise: (1) theories of perpetrators’ motivations and methods; (2) recommended practice in sustaining public and community opposition to CPC; (3) tactics and strategies for documenting, investigating, and prosecuting CPC; and (4) forensic sedimentology—uses of biophysical sciences to link sediments from implicated persons and objects to crime scenes. Forensic sedimentology served as the touchstone for dialogues among experts in criminology, archaeological sciences, law enforcement, and heritage stewardship. Field visits to CPC crime scenes and workshop deliberations identified pathways toward integrating CPC theory and practice with forensic sedimentology’s potent battery of analytic methods.
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