American Held Over Rare Fossils Theft
Jakarta. Central Java Police have arrested a US citizen for allegedly attempting to smuggle hundreds of prehistoric fossils out of the country.
Dennis Bradley Davis, 52, was arrested in Sragen with 43 different types of fossils packed in boxes and gunny sacks.
The items, reportedly dug up at the World Heritage Sangiran excavation site, ranged in age from 700,000 to one million years, police said.
“We’ve sent Interpol a red notice about Davis for trying to sell the fossils from Sangiran to, we suspect, the United States,” Sr. Comr. Jihartono, a Central Java Police spokesman, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
“We’re investigating this case seriously because it pertains to priceless cultural heritage. We’re also going to be transparent in our investigation.”
He said Davis had bought the fossils, worth an estimated $2 million, for just Rp 58 million ($6,5000) from Wasimin, 50, a digger at Sangiran.
The two were arrested with the goods in a truck, along with the driver, Aris Nugroho, while on their way from Sragen to Bali.
Jihartono said Davis had previously bought similar items from Wasimin for Rp 13 million.
He also said Davis had claimed to be a scientist, but it was unclear which institution he worked at.
“We’re still digging up more information and conducting a thorough investigation,” he said, adding that Davis was in the country on a tourist visa.
“People in Sragen were suspicious about his activities over the past few months.”
The three suspects will be charged under the 1992 Cultural Heritage Law, for which they could face up to 10 years in prison and Rp 100 million in fines.
The recovered fossils include mammoth and stegodon tusks, buffalo horns, crocodile jawbones and teeth and bones from various prehistoric animals.
The Sangiran excavation site is best known for its wealth of hominid fossils, with 60 already discovered there, including several of Homo erectus.
The area was named a World Heritage Site in 1996 by Unesco.