U.S. Forest Service: Man Shared Photos Of Illegal Artifact Excavation On Instagram

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CRAWFORD COUNTY (KFSM) -- A man is under investigation after officers with the U.S. Forest Service used his Instagram account to determine he may be illegally excavating artifacts from known prehistoric archaeological sites in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, according to a search warrant affidavit from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Arkansas.

The investigation into David R. Tudor, of Natural Dam, began in May 2015 when the U.S. Forest Service received an anonymous email about Tudor's Instagram account where he goes under the username "dirt 0310," the affidavit states. Tudor's property is in proximity to and within the outside proclamation boundaries of the National Forest, but the excavation sites were all on federal land, according to the affidavit.

Some of Tudor's sites were in Whitzen Hollow and officers from the Boston Mountain Ranger District were brought in to survey the area for unauthorized digging, the affidavit states.

Later the same day that officers conducted the survey, Tudor posted new photos of the site on his Instagram, according to the affidavit. When officers went back they found someone had parked a vehicle and unloaded horses based on tire tracks and hoof prints in the dirt, the affidavit states.

Tudor posted another photo from the archaeological site several days later, and when officers went out to the area the following day, they again found tire tracks and hoof prints that led them to a bluff shelter where there was evidence of digging, according to the affidavit. Officers found two holes approximately one to two feet in diameter and two inches deep.

During June and July, officers installed photo and video cameras near the digging site and found another site that showed signs of excavation, the affidavit states. At the second site officers discovered a pick axe and box fan shroud that was being used as a screen to separate dirt from artifacts, according to the affidavit. They installed another camera at that location.

In August, officers located another site they believe was used by Tudor and compared it to photos on his Instagram account, the affidavit states. The site, another bluff shelter, is near the National Forest boundary.

A video from one of the sites, where the pick axe and box fan shroud were found, shows Tudor walking into a waist-deep excavated hole, according to the affidavit. Another video from the site taken several weeks later shows Tudor digging further in the hole, the affidavit states. Officers then inspected the site and noticed the hole was deeper than before, according to the affidavit.

Right now there are no permits authorizing the excavation of archaeological sites or the removal of artifacts in the Boston Mountain Ranger District. There are also no exemptions or permits authorizing entry into caves or mines in the area. That means Tudor was not authorized to enter any caves or to dig up any artifacts, the affidavit states.

Many of the items in Tudor's photos are not arrowheads, which means they shouldn't have been removed regardless of how they were found, according to the affidavit.

Tim Mulvihill, an archaeologist with the Arkansas National Archaeological Survey, said Tudor's actions were a bad idea.

"They take it seriously if you go out and destroy the ground on federal land and collect prehistoric artifacts or anything else," he said. "It's not even allowed to pick up arrowheads on the surface or anything like that on federal lands, and really anywhere you go, you should have permission of the landowner to collect anything off the land."

Excavating and collecting artifacts is also prohibited by state law.

"We first always try to educate everybody that our resources are here for the public and not for individual use," Tim Scott, a Devil's Den State Park ranger, said.

And as far as collecting archaeological items is concerned, Mulvihill said most digging should be left up to the professionals.

"People can join in with projects with U.S. Forest Service archaeologists," he said. "They can volunteer on projects to help do research on federal land."

According to his Instagram account, Tudor doesn't sell any of the artifacts he finds and states he has about 1,200 arrowheads, the affidavit states. He also describes himself as an avid artifact hunter.

Officers found about 38 Instagram posts in the last twelve months where Tudor included photos of tools and excavations or stated he was digging in bluff shelters, according to the affidavit. An Ozark National Forest archaeologist told investigators many of the artifacts Tudor displayed in the photos would not have been found on the surface, the affidavit states.

A search of Tudor's Instagram account shows some of the posts referred to in the affidavit have been removed.

No charges have been filed against Tudor pending the investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Fort Smith couldn't comment on an open case.

5NEWS contacted Tudor's place of work, but was unable to reach him.

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