Remote Corner of Joshua Tree National Park Hit By Pot-Diggers

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.

 

Outside of the rock shelter.

Outside of the rock shelter.

 

Dug-out inside of the shelter.

Dug-out inside of the shelter.

 

Sifter screen, used to sift through dirt for artifacts.

Sifter screen, used to sift through dirt for artifacts.

 

Pottery sherds sitting on a small shelf.

Pottery sherds sitting on a small shelf.

 

Additional pottery sherds.

Additional pottery sherds.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

3 Comments

  • Hey Jim!

    I posted this on your FB post also. I wasn’t sure if you’d see it there because, my comment was so belated.
    ——————
    That sucks! A short time ago, the same thing happened to me. I was visiting one of my favorite sites and noticed that somebody had done a lot of digging in large midden. I don’t know what the Ass Hat got away with, but there were broken stone tools and pottery shards scattered around. Some of them were fairly large. I took some photos and went to the park HQ (not JT). As I was telling a ranger about it, the park superintendent walked into the room. He said he wanted to see it before he spoke to the archaeologist about it. He and I ended up hiking back to it. Here is a photo of part of it. It started pouring while we were out there and I wasn’t dressed for it. Got soaked…

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