Thursday, March 01, 2007

Looters pillaging Native American sites in Palm Beach County
Piece by piece, year after year, relics that tell the history of Palm Beach County are vanishing.

Development along the coast and expanding westward has paved over countless sites once home to Florida's earliest civilizations. The sites that remain along the western edge of the county are being pillaged by thieves, who've dug up centuries of unrecorded history in search of lucrative clay pots, tools and jewelry that can be sold to collectors.

It's a practice that's illegal at the local, state and federal levels, but one, county officials admit, they're largely powerless to stop. The ancient sites, some thought to be burial mounds dating back thousands of years, are too remote and too inaccessible to be patrolled every day. Despite limited exposure, researchers have already uncovered some artifacts -- crystal-beaded necklaces, metal figurines and gold beads -- that hint at a thriving civilization that lived off the land and traded with early explorers around the time of Shakespeare and the Renaissance in Europe.