Perhaps there is a God…

Ancient Indian site plundered, Midville man sentenced

By Tres Bragg, courtesy of the True Citizen [Waynesboro, Georgia, USA]
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 5:16 PM EST

In September 2009, Wesley Linton Hodges, 52, of Midville and James Seaborn Roberts, 57, of Swainsboro were discovered illegally digging on private property in Burke County. When Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Jeff Billips found the pair, they had already dug up piles of artifacts and several human bone fragments.

Hodges and Roberts appeared before State Court Judge Jerry M. Daniel last Wednesday where they entered guilty pleas for excavating without written permission, criminal trespass and littering.

DNR ranger Grant Matherly discovered the dig site, and days later, Billips sat watching the pair for approximately half an hour before approaching them, at which time he discovered the freshly dug bones amongst the piles of relics. Hodges had pieces stuffed in his shirt pocket, and more were found in a cooler next to bottled drinks.

Courtesy of DNR The incident report stated that Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant, a forensic anthropologist and adjunct professor at the University of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia, confirmed the remains were human, specifically two adult metacarpals. Among the non-human items were pottery, chert and a shell gorget (status symbol), which officials say are commonly sold at tradeshows across the nation.

This time, however, was different – according to Judge Daniel, neither man had permission to dig on the premises, and the money they could have profited from the illegal dig rightfully belonged to the property owner.

“So what do you think I should do about that?” he asked the defendents regarding ownership of the artifacts. Hodges blankly replied, “Well, it was our hard labor that went into it.”

In an interview with The True Citizen, Thomas Gresham of the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns said digging without proper authorization harms all Georgians.

“It’s destroying the history and prehistory of our state,” he said. “It touches us on an emotional and spiritual level to have burial sites dug into and disrespected … we are also upset by the loss of archeological value – an important piece of prehistory is lost forever.”

Dave Crass, a state archeologist, agreed, stating that archeological sites are nonrenewable resources. “Nobody’s making any more four-thousand-year-old sites,” he said, adding that the law distinguishes between people who pick up arrowheads out of fields and folks who dig into archeological sites. “Picking artifacts up off the surface is not an activity that causes damage versus digging into a site with no prior research or plan.” According to sentencing documents filed at the Burke County Clerk of Court’s Office, Judge Daniel sentenced Hodges and Roberts to three years probation, 24 days in jail (that may be served on weekends), 80 hours community service and a $3,000 fine. Restitution, which rangers said could be anywhere between $7,500-$25,000, was left open.

During the sentencing, Judge Daniel also banned each man from Burke County as well as future tradeshows and archeological activities.

Two other men were arrested the day prior to Hodges and Roberts as they were heading to the same dig site. Charles Bradford Phillips, 57, and Ronald Harold Flynt, 54, both of Metter, were charged with criminal trespass and interference with the performance of a ranger’s duty after being apprehended following a brief chase through the woods. Several digging tools were discovered during the arrest including shovels, gloves and a ground probe. Judge Daniel sentenced Phillips and Flynt to 12 months probation and a $2,000 fine. They were also banned from Burke County and future artifact related activities. All of the artifacts from the site and the tools used during the dig were turned over to authorities.


The two looters were caught waist deep, sifting through human remains in an attempt to recover Native American artifacts.

In September 2009, Wesley Linton Hodges, 52, of Midville and James Seaborn Roberts, 57, of Swainsboro were discovered illegally digging on private property in Burke County. When Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Jeff Billips found the pair, they had already dug up piles of artifacts and several human bone fragments.

Hodges and Roberts appeared before State Court Judge Jerry M. Daniel last Wednesday where they entered guilty pleas for excavating without written permission, criminal trespass and littering.

DNR ranger Grant Matherly discovered the dig site, and days later, Billips sat watching the pair for approximately half an hour before approaching them, at which time he discovered the freshly dug bones amongst the piles of relics. Hodges had pieces stuffed in his shirt pocket, and more were found in a cooler next to bottled drinks.

Courtesy of DNR The incident report stated that Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant, a forensic anthropologist and adjunct professor at the University of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia, confirmed the remains were human, specifically two adult metacarpals. Among the non-human items were pottery, chert and a shell gorget (status symbol), which officials say are commonly sold at tradeshows across the nation.

This time, however, was different – according to Judge Daniel, neither man had permission to dig on the premises, and the money they could have profited from the illegal dig rightfully belonged to the property owner.

“So what do you think I should do about that?” he asked the defendents regarding ownership of the artifacts. Hodges blankly replied, “Well, it was our hard labor that went into it.”

In an interview with The True Citizen, Thomas Gresham of the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns said digging without proper authorization harms all Georgians.

“It’s destroying the history and prehistory of our state,” he said. “It touches us on an emotional and spiritual level to have burial sites dug into and disrespected … we are also upset by the loss of archeological value – an important piece of prehistory is lost forever.”

Dave Crass, a state archeologist, agreed, stating that archeological sites are nonrenewable resources. “Nobody’s making any more four-thousand-year-old sites,” he said, adding that the law distinguishes between people who pick up arrowheads out of fields and folks who dig into archeological sites. “Picking artifacts up off the surface is not an activity that causes damage versus digging into a site with no prior research or plan.” According to sentencing documents filed at the Burke County Clerk of Court’s Office, Judge Daniel sentenced Hodges and Roberts to three years probation, 24 days in jail (that may be served on weekends), 80 hours community service and a $3,000 fine. Restitution, which rangers said could be anywhere between $7,500-$25,000, was left open.

During the sentencing, Judge Daniel also banned each man from Burke County as well as future tradeshows and archeological activities.

Two other men were arrested the day prior to Hodges and Roberts as they were heading to the same dig site. Charles Bradford Phillips, 57, and Ronald Harold Flynt, 54, both of Metter, were charged with criminal trespass and interference with the performance of a ranger’s duty after being apprehended following a brief chase through the woods. Several digging tools were discovered during the arrest including shovels, gloves and a ground probe. Judge Daniel sentenced Phillips and Flynt to 12 months probation and a $2,000 fine. They were also banned from Burke County and future artifact related activities. All of the artifacts from the site and the tools used during the dig were turned over to authorities.

Dave Crass, a state archeologist, agreed, stating that archeological sites are nonrenewable resources. “Nobody’s making any more four-thousand-year-old sites,” he said, adding that the law distinguishes between people who pick up arrowheads out of fields and folks who dig into archeological sites. “Picking artifacts up off the surface is not an activity that causes damage versus digging into a site with no prior research or plan.” According to sentencing documents filed at the Burke County Clerk of Court’s Office, Judge Daniel sentenced Hodges and Roberts to three years probation, 24 days in jail (that may be served on weekends), 80 hours community service and a $3,000 fine. Restitution, which rangers said could be anywhere between $7,500-$25,000, was left open.

FOR MORE ABOUT THIS INCIDENT GOTO:

http://thesga.org/2010/01/stiff-fines-for-site-looting-handed-down-in-burke-county/

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