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The FBI Has No Idea Why This Old Man Had 2,000 Stolen Native American Bones

The guy had an extensive collection of cultural artifacts from around the world. He also had... a bunch of human bones?

by River Donaghey
Feb 27 2019, 5:51pm

Screenshot via CBS This Morning

Back in 2014, FBI agents raided the home museum of Donald Miller, a then 91-year-old amateur collector who was well known in Waldron, Indiana, for the rare cultural artifacts he'd gathered on various adventures across the globe. The FBI was apparently acting on a tip that Miller's collection of Aztec figurines, old pottery, and even an Egyptian sarcophagus included some pieces that were illegal for private citizens to own, so they decided to take a look.

According to a new report from the FBI, the raid uncovered more than some ancient artifacts—they also found, uh, thousands of Native American bones stolen from burial sites, CBS News reports.

Tucked among the other pieces of his collection were 2,000 human bones that the FBI believes belonged to "around 500 human beings," the FBI's Tim Carpenter told CBS. "It's very staggering."

The FBI discovered that much of Miller's Ming Dynasty jade or whatever broke antiquities laws, and seized more than 42,000 pieces from his house. You can sort of understand how Miller—who apparently went on amateur archaeological missions around the world—might've wanted to sneak some artifacts home like a misguided, real-life Indiana Jones. But the bones are a whole different story.

Even Carpenter seemed completely baffled when CBS asked him why, exactly, Miller might've wanted to put human remains on display as if they were collectible souvenirs. "I don't know," he said. "I truly don't know."

The FBI has spent the years since the raid returning pieces of Miller's collection to their countries of origin. On Tuesday, the agency's Indianapolis branch tweeted that artifacts have been returned to "Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, New Zealand & Spain" so far, and that "361 artifacts will be repatriated to China this week." And Carpenter told CBS they're also working to return the bones to their rightful resting places.

"You have to treat these people with dignity," he said. "These are human beings and people. It matters. It has meaning to people today, it has meaning to our children and their children."

Miller passed away in 2015, so the answer to why he thought it would be cool to collect stolen human bones may have died with him. But in any case, a few things are abundantly clear: The whole thing is weird as shit, and his house is definitely haunted now. Potential buyers beware.

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