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Collector Had 'Staggering' Number of Human Bones

2K bones represent 500 humans, likely Native Americans
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2019 4:07 PM CST
FBI agents work around the home of 91-year-old Donald Miller in Waldron, Ind., on April 2, 2014.   (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Kelly Wilkinson, File)
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(Newser) – It was a collection "unlike anything we'd ever seen." That's how the head of the FBI's art crime unit describes some 42,000 artifacts discovered in the rural Indiana home of Don Miller during a 2014 raid. Almost five years later, Tim Carpenter of the FBI explains it wasn't just weapons, ceramics, and jewelry "from every corner of the globe" that sparked agents' interest. They also discovered 2,000 bones, which "represent about 500 human beings," Carpenter tells CBS News. "It's very staggering." The bones are believed to have been taken from Native American burial sites, including of the Arikara tribe. "They could very well be my own great, great, great, great grandfather, or grandmother, you know, that had been—I characterize it as being ripped out of the earth," says tribal official Pete Coffey, who is working with the FBI to have the remains returned.

Carpenter says Miller admitted to carrying out illegal digs in the US and abroad before his death in March 2015 at age 91. ArtNet News at the time noted he'd boasted of taking artifacts from 200 countries, perhaps before antiquities laws went into effect. But "I think he felt compelled to try and do the right thing and return these home," says Carpenter, noting Miller agreed that 5,000 items in his collection should be repatriated. Some have already been sent to Canada, Mexico, Cambodia, and Colombia. Nearly 400 items are to be claimed by a Chinese delegation on Thursday, reports the Indianapolis Star. Some of the Native American items—which made up roughly half of the collection, according to Carpenter—have also been returned to tribes in South Dakota. Per CBS, "a large-scale repatriation of remains to other tribes" is expected soon. (Miller said he helped build the atomic bomb.)

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