Say It Ain't So, Indiana Jones

August 7, 2015

Did archaeologists from the University of Missouri at Columbia steal dozens of artifacts from a national forest? The Associated Press reported that R. Lee Lyman, professor and chair of archaeology at Missouri, was charged with second-degree theft, second-degree malicious mischief and making false or misleading statements to a public servant regarding an investigation into missing artifacts from Washington State. Matthew T. Boulanger, a research specialist, also has reportedly been charged. The men allegedly took some 93 artifacts -- including arrowheads and other byproducts of toolmaking -- without permission from the Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in southeastern Washington during a 2013 research trip. The artifacts, taken from seven different sites, were protected by the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Dave N. Schmitt, a researcher affiliated with Southern Methodist University, also faces charges and has pleaded not guilty. He told the Columbia Daily Tribune that the charges are “a thorn in our side and completely unfounded.” Lyman and Boulanger were arraigned in July but did not enter a plea. Lyman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Boulanger said he had no comment "regarding pending legal action."

The investigation report cites an article the men wrote about the research trip. It says that no excavation was done but some artifacts were collected because they were visible and could be removed by passersby, according to the Associated Press. A university spokesman said the university was aware of the charges but couldn’t comment further.

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