Missouri professor, researcher accused of removing artifacts

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(COLUMBIA, Mo., AP) — A professor and a research specialist at the University of Missouri face charges in Washington state for allegedly removing artifacts from a national forest without proper permits.

The charges stem from a 2013 research trip the men made to the Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in southeastern Washington, where authorities say they removed more than 93 items from seven sites in violation of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
Archaeology professor R. Lee Lyman was charged June 30 with second-degree theft, second-degree malicious mischief and making false or misleading statements to a public servant. Matthew T. Boulanger, who the university lists as a research specialist but was a doctoral candidate at the time, is charged with second-degree theft and second degree malicious mischief, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1DsTUiP).
Dave N. Schmitt, a research affiliate at Southern Methodist University in Texas, is also charged with second-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief. He has pleaded not guilty. Schmitt, 55, told the newspaper the charges are “a thorn in our side and completely unfounded.”
Lyman, 64, and Boulanger, 38, did not enter any plea at an arraignment in July; neither responded to requests for comment from the newspaper.
An article the men wrote about the research trip that was cited in the investigation report says no excavation was done and there was minimal collection of artifacts, which were taken because they were visible and could be removed by people using the trails and camping areas.
Court documents filed in Superior Court in Columbia County, Washington, accuse the three men of bringing the artifacts to Missouri before handing them over to the U.S. Forest Service at the agency’s request. They’re also accused of not using a Forest Service-issued radio or any other means to contact law enforcement or other authorities “to notify the United States about the collection of artifacts” as required or having the proper permits for removing the items, according to a probable cause statement.
“The artifacts were not just arrowheads, but also lithic debitage, the byproducts of tool making that a layperson would probably not immediately recognize, and are important contextually in an archeological and anthropological sense,” the charging document said.
University spokesman Christian Basi said the school is aware of the charges.
“But beyond that, we can’t really discuss anything, especially related to any type of personnel action,” he said.
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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com.