This afternoon (5/21/15) on the verge of finishing up a two-day trek in the Coxcomb Mountains region, I had the extreme displeasure of finding a ransacked archeological site. The Coxcomb Mountains sit along the eastern border of Joshua Tree National Park. This region has no roads which penetrate it, and is infrequently visited.
I was hiking with a friend along a long stretch of granite boulder outcroppings, when a ground level rock shelter caught my eye. As I approached it, I noticed that something wasn’t right. I first noticed several sherds of broken Native American pottery on the ground, then additional sherds along a small ledge on the outside of the shelter. A mound of dirt was sitting on the outside, and a large hole was dug out from the inside. The ground was soft, and sunk with each footstep. I looked to my friend that was accompanying me, and said “Pot-Diggers.” It became even more apparent when I noticed a metal screen sitting to the side of the shelter.
I documented the site, and took a coordinates reading, while doing my best to not alter the crime scene. The National Park Service has been alerted to the unfortunate situation, and will be investigating further.
Excavating, and or removing Native American artifacts is a federal crime under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.