|Grave Robbing Dead Easy|
|Subject||Social Costs, Government Intervention|
|Topic||Scarcity, Choice, and Opportunity Costs|
|Key Words||Demand, Profit|
In Peru, pre-Columbian burial grounds are being pillaged by grave robbers in search of artifacts. The robbers sell their finds to traffickers in order to put food on their tables. The traffickers then re-sell the artifacts to collectors--at home and abroad--who seem to have an insatiable demand, making the traffickers a significant profit.
Little is done to stop this. Too few people police the sites. When robbers are caught, they are not generally convicted or they receive a suspended sentence. Buying and selling artifacts is illegal, but the penal code refers only to grave robbers. Traffickers appear to be well connected and thus avoid punishment. Possession of artifacts is not a crime. Ironically, the U.S. is more aggressive in intercepting stolen artifacts, returning them to Peru when found.
Archaeologists complain that knowledge of ancient cultures is lost because the artifacts alone are not informative--it is the artifacts in their context that matters.(Updated December 1, 1998)
|Source||Catherine, Elton, "Underground trade, lax laws help power Peru's grave robbers", St. Petersburg Times, October 23, 1998.|
Return to the Scarcity, Choice and Opportunity Cost Index
©1998 South-Western College Publishing. All Rights Reserved webmaster | DISCLAIMER