An illegal dig in Utah’s Fort Pearce Historic Site destroyed portions of invaluable ancient culture.
A man was arrested after using power and hand tools to dig a tunnel into Trust Lands Administration property.
The treasure hunter was allegedly on a search for something he thought was special, but instead destroyed a prized portion of an archaeological area.
Untold treasures may lie buried in Utah’s Fort Pearce Historic Site. One treasure hunter who wanted to uncover that bounty for himself instead found felony charges. He allegedly destroyed significant portions of the post-Pueblo Period land, which was chock-full of evidence of ancient inhabitants.
That destruction took the form of a tunnel-like hole 2 feet wide and sinking 15 feet deep, which was dug with power tools. The man, Eduardo Humberto Seoane, is now being charged with a felony for illegal digging. Authorities witnessed the effort when they went to investigate claims of vandalism at a location known for over 100 500-plus-year-old petroglyphs.
“We couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” Darrell Cashin, liaison with Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, stated in a release from Trust Lands Administration that was subsequently reported by the Salt Lake City Tribune. “The destruction was nothing like we’d ever seen before. The suspect had power and hand tools out there and he’d obviously been excavating for quite some time.”
Seoane claimed he was prospecting for silver, doing so on land that archaeologists believe—based on test excavations done over two decades ago—date occupation on the site to 1440 AD, and potentially even as far back as 1000 BC.
“It’s almost impossible to calculate the damage caused by this guy,” Trust Lands Administration lead archaeologist Joel Boomgarden said in a statement. “It is important for people to remember that the archaeological record of Utah is a finite resource. Nobody is making 1,000-year-old ancestral Puebloan sites anymore. Once they are gone, there is no going back.”
Boomgarden said that Seoane was digging up archaeological evidence of occupation and then tossing it about. The haphazard approach eliminates the ability to use the area to log beneficial data, especially since the tunnel was dug directly on top of a “prehistoric trash dump,” Boomgarden told KSL.
“As you can imagine, as with any trash dump, there’s a lot of information in the trash dump,” he said. “What he’s done is he’s dug his hole straight through the trash dump and disturbed those deposits so that they are no longer stratified, no longer in order. All the information is sort of out of context now. It’s almost impossible to piece it back together.”
Seoane couldn’t produce any permits or approvals for his claimed prospecting endeavors. He also has no “legitimate business” allowing him on the site for that matter, according to the administration. Joel Hafoka told the Tribune that Seoane has ties to treasure-hunting groups.
Seoane now faces a second-degree felony charge stemming from the November, 2023 observance of his digging. Officials believe that it will cost over $18,000 to refill the hole—a monetary hit that can’t begin to compete with the cultural loss to the area.
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