The G E Mound Case ia a narrative, nonfiction account of the controversial federal prosecution of five indian relic collectors involved in the archaeological destruction of a 2000-year-old Indian mound on land owned by a General Electric plastics plant near Mount Vernon, Indiana.
Art Gerber, a prominent artifact collector, amateur archaeologist, and professional photographer from Tell City, Indiana, an Ohio River town located not far from the mound in the southern tip of the state, became the target of the federal investigation of the mound's destruction. Gerber, one of dozens of collectors who hunted relics on the site, had been on the mound in the summer of 1988 on only three occasions. The site had been destroyed six weeks earlier by a G E earthmoving contractor pursuant to a landscaping project around the plant's newly built reception center.
Although G E officials knew they were using soil from an Indian mound for landscaping fill, Art Gerber and the other collectors were prosecuted to placate Native American activists, professional archaeologists, and others who consider artifact collecting and amateur archaeology a form of archaeological looting.
The post-destruction analysis of the so-called G E Mound revealed that it was one of the most important Hopewell era (Middle Woodland) sites ever discovered. The criminal convictions of Art Gerber and the other collectors made legal history because the defendants were held culpable federally even though the artifacts had been removed from private land. To achieve this, the federal district judge broadly interpreted an arcane, never before used provision of the 1979 Archaeological Resource Protection Act. The unusual conviction was upheld by the federal appeals court in Chicago. Gerber's appellate attorneys appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court that declined to review the case.
The G E Mound Case features Art Gerber's fight to defend amateur archaeology and Indian relic collecting. On a personnel level, the story involves his struggle against powerful political forces to avoid going to prison. Up against Native American activists who hated him, professional archaeologists who disapproved of his collecting, a well-organized corporate public relations machine, a biased media, and an aggressive federal prosecutor, Art Gerber lost his financial security, his health, and his freedom. Eventually the case would cost him his marriage.
Once Art Gerber was on his way to federal prison, Native American activists and professional archaeologists, allies in the anti-collecting movement, turned on each other in a war over who controlled the 5,000 G E Mound artifacts that had been turned over to the FBI. The archaeologists wanted to study the relics. Native American wanted them returned to the earth. With the hasty reburial of these unique clues to the ancient past, the Native Americans won that fight. The G E Mound Case is set against the ongoing war over who owns the ancient relics of America's prehistoric past.
Mr. Gerber died on August 28, 2017 at the age of 79. [I considered him a friend and personal hero.]