Miami mystery: $8,000 in artifacts stolen
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 21:09
Administrative assistant for the anthropology department, Kathy Erbaugh, came in for work over the summer only to discover there had been a burglary in Upham Hall.
That day, on June 28, the overnight maintenance staff ushered her to room 180 where the door had been pried open using a paint grouting tool, and several of the artifacts on display inside it had been taken.
Anthropology chair Mark Peterson estimated the dollar value of the stolen items to be between $8,000 and $10,000, but, due to their unique nature, the items are considered priceless.
“They took an antique painted clay disk from West Bengal that was a personal gift to me,” Peterson said. “It’s not antique enough to be valuable, but it can’t be replaced.”
Many of the stolen items were part of the archeological artifact collection that students had chosen to research for their final project for an introductory archaeology course taught by professor Jeb Card.
“This is very discouraging for the students,” Card said.
Junior Anthropology major Clair Meyer spent many long hours researching her artifact – a pipe from the Civil War era – only to be told this summer that it would no longer be on display.
“It was a lot of work and research,” Meyer said. “To have something you spent that much time on is pretty great. So to get the email that it had been stolen, it’s irritating. That was my time and effort, just to have it taken for no good reason.”
The loss of unique educational materials pains Peterson more than the dollar value of the items themselves.
“The rich range of artifacts that students will get to work with has been diminished,” Peterson said. “That’s far more sad.”
Erbaugh immediately notified the police, who have opened an investigation, but there have yet to be any leads, according to Lt. Ben Spilman of the Miami University Police.
“There’s no new developments,” Spilman said. “But it’s something we’ll keep looking into.”
All the artifacts were put on the Interpol stolen art list. An eye is being kept on various internet sites in case anything should turn up.
In addition, Peterson said the department has repaired the doors and cabinets, and has increased the number of security cameras in the hallway to prevent this sort of incident from occurring again.
The mystery remains as to why these items in particular were stolen. It is unlikely that the thief had much knowledge of the items’ values because some of the artifacts they chose to leave behind were of a much greater dollar worth than the ones they chose to take, according to Peterson. In addition, the desktop computers in the adjacent lab were of far more expensive than the artifacts on display.
“It kind of seems as though they just took things that look cool,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to imagine what the motive could be. It’s a pretty hefty charge of breaking and entering.”
Card has requested that anyone who may have information as to the whereabouts of these artifacts come forward. All the pictures of the stolen items can be found on The Miami Student Facebook page here.