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FBI Reveals 91-Year-Old's Incredible Artifact Stash

Don Miller says thousands of objects are rightfully his
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2014 11:22 AM CDT
FBI Raids 91-Year-Old's 'Immeasurable' Art Stash
Various artifacts taken from an excavation site in Indiana in the mid-1970's sit on a tray, Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, in St. Louis. They are not a part of Miller's collection.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The FBI spent yesterday at a somewhat unlikely place: the Indiana home of 91-year-old Don Miller, a man the bureau describes as an "amateur archaeologist." Its art crime team is currently going through his private collection of thousands of Native American cultural artifacts as well as pieces from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia, and New Guinea. The team is cataloging his collection—the cultural value of which "is immeasurable," an agent says—to determine if any are illegal to possess privately, the Indianapolis Star reports. "We know that some of the items were acquired improperly," an agent adds, per CBS News. While the Star reports the FBI shed no light on how it gained knowledge of Miller's collection, the Shelbyville News spoke with another FBI rep who says Miller reached out to the FBI about repatriating the items, without explaining why he did so.

Miller has not been arrested or charged, and agents say the cataloging will take longer than "weeks or months." An expert and Shawnee descendant, however, says that time frame is low-balling it: "It may be 30 years—or never—before they have it all cataloged." And though the FBI wouldn't describe any of the artifacts, a professor who has seen the items said, "I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums." As for Miller, "I have been in 200 countries collecting artifacts" since childhood, he says, adding he "absolutely" has rightful ownership to them. (More FBI stories.)

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