Pot-hunting expedition foiled on the Earth University campus

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos Artifacts do not look like museum quality while still covered with dirt.

They call them pot hunters. They seek out pre-Columbian sites, mostly burials, to find objects to sell.

The pieces they recover end up on some collector’s shelf or maybe even at San José’s Sunday flea market. But that time the objects are just curiosities because they lack the site description and other information archaeologists try to preserve.

Instead of a trowel and paint brush to remove the dirt. Pot hunters are in a hurry and use a shovel and, sometimes even a backhoe.

Four persons suspected of engage in in this illegal activity came into police hands Sunday after security agents at Earth University spotted them digging on the sprawling campus.

The university grounds north of Guácimo appears to have been a bustling pro-Columbian metropolis.

The university reported in February that an international team of archaeologists made significant new discoveries at the Las Mercedes archaeological site on the campus.

The findings provide new insight into the native populations that inhabited the Limón province more than 1,000 years ago, said the report..

During their third excavation, the team of archaeologists from the University at Albany-State University of New York and the Museo Nacional  confirmed a theory that the Las Mercedes site was a center of religious and political power during the pre-Columbian era, the university reported. Among the artifacts found was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican stone statue known as a chac-mool in perfect condition, they said.

Archaeologists are tight-lipped about the location of productive sites. Prosecutors probably will learn through interrogation that the men caught Sunday has some inside information that directed them where to dig. From photos provided by the Fuerza Pública, pot hunters appeared to have dug holes into rock-covered graves.

The men are residents of nearby Siquirres. Police recovered about 20 artifacts. All are considered to be part of the national heritage and protected by law.

Museo Nacional experts were called to the location to identify and take custody of the artifacts. Most were ceramic pots. But there also were small statues of birds and the photo on Page one which could be a humanized tapir, called in Spanish a danta.

Digging into graves is not a new occupation. Grave robbers were a major reason that Egyptian pharaohs built pyramids and also rested in hidden tombs. Nevertheless, most were raided.

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