Thousands of artifacts collected over 80 years removed from rural Indiana home by FBI

They descended on the 91-year-old man’s home, and seized it and all his belongings.

The FBI believes some of them were obtained illegally, but they don’t know which ones (if any), and it may take them months—or even years—to find out. From the Indianapolis Star:

Robert A. Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office, would not say at a news conference specifically why the investigation was initiated, but he did say the FBI had information about Miller’s collection and acted on it by deploying its art crime team.

FBI agents are working with art experts and museum curators, and neither they nor Jones would describe a single artifact involved in the investigation, but it is a massive collection. Jones added that cataloging of all of the items found will take longer than “weeks or months.”

“Frankly, overwhelmed,” is how Larry Zimmerman, professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis described his reaction. “I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums.”

The monetary value of the items and relics has not been determined, Jones said, but the cultural value is beyond measure. In addition to American Indian objects, the collection includes items from China, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Australia and New Guinea, he said.

Miller has not been charged with any crimes. Indeed, according to the Star, this entire raid is to determine whether any of the artifacts were illegally obtained:

The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.

Jones acknowledged that Miller might have acquired some of the items before the passage of U.S. laws or treaties prohibited their sale or purchase.

So because they don’t know whether Miller had obtained any of these artifacts illegally, they seized an elderly man’s home and his property to find out.