A man in Indiana had something of a makeshift museum in his home, but now the FBI is working to determine the rightful owners of the artifacts.
The FBI's Art Crime Team seized more than 7,000 artifacts and human remains that were found in the home of deceased scientist Don Miller.
"Don would collect pretty much anything," FBI special agent Tim Carpenter said on the website the agency has created to solicit information about the artifacts. "He collected from just about every corner of the globe."
4 years after an operation in IN resulted in the largest single recovery of cultural property in #FBI history, the FBI’s Art Crime Team is seeking to identify the rightful owners of more than 7,000 artifacts that were taken from locations across the globe. https://t.co/4uMn8t6FVN pic.twitter.com/6lmtxS8IGI— FBI (@FBI) February 27, 2019
There were some 42,000 items in the collection that Miller accrued in his Waldron, Indiana, home and now the FBI is working to find the rightful owners of each object that the agency took possession of in 2014.
While Miller was reportedly not shy about his collection, showing school groups and interested parties, the FBI were tipped off in 2013 to the fact that Miller's collection included human remains.
The FBI's press release said that before Miller died, which CBS reports happened in 2015, he agreed to allow investigators to take the items that would likely connect him to violating international, state and federal laws when he took them.
"It was his wish that we take these objects and return them to their rightful owners, and for the Native American ancestors to be reburied appropriately," Carpenter said.
"We are dealing in many cases with objects that are thousands of years old. So imagine a scenario where you take an artifact that was created 4,000 years ago, survived in the ground or a tomb, survived being looted, survived being transported to the United States, has been in this guy’s house for the last 60 years," Carpenter said.
While the FBI said that Miller cooperated with the six-day recovery operation in 2014, they also acknowledged that Miller did not keep detailed records about the origins or details of his various artifacts and the remains.
There were hundreds of remains found in the home, the FBI states, many of which are believed to be of Native American descent. The FBI said that reburials of remains and repatriations to various countries have occurred — an exact number of was not specified.
Carpenter estimates that about 15 percent of the material that the FBI seized has been returned.
"Our ultimate goal in this entire operation has been the respectful repatriation of these objects and these ancestors to the people they were taken from," Carpenter said in the release.
The FBI has been working with representatives from Native American tribes and foreign governments, but "we have not reached as large an audience as I'd hoped," Carpenter said, prompting the public release of the information, including a selection of photos of the various artifacts.
There is also an invitation-only website that provides more details of the various items.
"We have a lot of work left to do," Carpenter said in the FBI release, "and we can't do that work until the experts come forward and help us identify these pieces and guide us on where they need to go."