$20,000 Reward for Information about Stolen Moundville Artifacts

Moundville Hooded Bottle

Need a bit of archaeological funding? Need to pay off your credit card debt? Need a great party story? Boy-oh-girl, does the University of Alabama Police Department and the Associates for the Return of Moundville Artifacts have a deal for you?  You may read the whole story and take a look at some of the stolen artifacts by clicking on the following safe links:

Story of the Stolen Moundville Artifacts and the Current Reward

Take a Look at the Stolen Artifacts

Someone out there must know something about what happened to these artifacts.  Think hard.  When you were a kid, did you ever overhear your Uncle Jimmy talking about the night his buddies got a “10-finger discount” on a bunch of American Indian relics at some museum in Alabama? If you know or think you know anything about this theft of artifacts from Moundville in 1980, please call the Confidential Tip Line at (205) 348-2800.

What happened to all of these stolen Moundville artifacts over the past 40 years? I grew up among artifact collectors in the Nashville area in the late 20th century. Although I have never been an artifact collector myself, I know the unique subculture of American Indian artifact collecting inside out. In my honest opinion, a person would have been an absolute fool to fence and sell these stolen artifacts to artifact collectors here in the United States. News travels secretly and fast within the American artifact collecting community.  While some collectors are not particularly moral about jumping a fence and digging a hole in some stranger’s field, many artifact collectors feel rigidly moral about artifacts stolen from another collector or a museum. Therefore, it would have been extremely hard to fence and sell these artifacts to collectors here in the United States. Buying and concealing easily identifiable stolen artifacts from Moundville would have been a matter far too hot to handle in the ranks of American artifact collectors.

My best speculation is that these stolen Moundville artifacts were fenced very soon after they were stolen and sold to extremely wealthy American Indian artifact collectors in foreign countries.  Indeed, a foreign receiver and potential buyers may have been lined up even before the Moundville theft took place—so disposal for profit would have been quick and easy—involving as few hand-to-hand transfers as possible. My best bet for a theft that occurred in 1980 would have been an artifact transfer to someone(s) in Japan, West Germany, or a country in the Middle East.  Why those countries?

You have to look at where money outside of the United States was concentrated in 1980. Here in the United States, ancient American Indian ceramics from the Southeast were selling for only about $1,000 to $2,000 per vessel in the American collector market. Overseas markets were an entirely different matter.

In 1980, very few small towns in Tennessee had cable television access. Oak Ridge, where I lived,  was one of the first in Tennessee.  We had full cable channel access at our house in the early 1980s, and I actually watched major antiquities auctions in places like Japan on cable TV. I saw well-decorated but still fairly run-of-the-mill prehistoric American Indian ceramic vessels selling for as much as $40,000 each in those auctions on the international antiquities market. Just from the monetary perspective alone, a person would have been an absolute fool to sell the stolen Moundville artifacts for the low going rates here in the United States when they could have obtained far more money per vessel on the international market.

Therefore, based on my knowledge of that time in American artifact collecting and where money was concentrated on the globe, my best speculation would be that all of these stolen Moundville artifacts ended up in the hands of wealthy overseas collectors of antiquities. By wealthy, I do not mean the kind of person who has a couple of million yen.  I am talking about people who have tens or hundreds of millions of yen.  They are people with all the physical and monetary resources necessary to buy stolen artifacts, hide them in a secret museum room in a palatial foreign mansion, and successfully conceal them from the FBI and Interpol for many decades.  This is most likely the reason why no one in the United States has seen hyde nor hair of these Moundville artifacts since the day they were stolen in 1980.

If Moundville is hoping to find these artifacts somewhere in the United States, I think they are making a mistake. They are more likely to find them somewhere overseas. Forty years have passed, and the wealthy overseas people who first received these artifacts are probably quite old and near death. When such deaths occur, as often happens to collectors in the United States, their surviving heirs (i.e., family members) usually know little to nothing about the artifacts that are left behind. Their first impulse is to sell the artifacts or donate them to a museum. Because antiquities still sell for very high prices overseas, I suspect that these Moundville artifacts will show up in major auction house lots (think Sotheby’s, etc.) sometime within the next 10 years. In my honest opinion, Moundville, the FBI, and various police authorities need to keep a close eye on these and other famous auction houses overseas (and on overseas museums) to see whether any of these Moundville artifacts come floating to the surface—as it were. Now is about the right time for that to start happening, and now is the time to begin the watch. This may be Moundville’s best chance for recovering at least some of their stolen artifacts.

Please pass the news of the $20,000 reward and this blog article along to all of your social media friends, contacts, and acquaintances here at home and around the world.  Someone is bound to know something about this theft of artifacts and where the artifacts are located.  The more people who read about it, the higher the chances that this message will fall into the hands of a person who needs money and has true information about this theft and/or the stolen Moundville artifacts.

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