RUSH COUNTY, Ind. - Authorities seized thousands of Native American, Russian, Chinese and other artifacts that have "immeasurable" cultural value from the private collection of a 91-year-old man in central Indiana, the FBI said Wednesday.
The FBI with a team of about 100 people descended on the Rush County home of Donald Miller. The rest of the team consisted of cultural and academic experts.
Miller is described as an amateur archaeologist who has been collecting thousands of artifacts and relics for 80 years.
FBI Special Agent Robert Jones says "the cultural value of these artifacts is immeasurable."
Some items were acquired improperly, but Miller, who traveled extensively, obtained others legally or before laws affecting them were on the books, Jones said. Federal authorities will attempt to repatriate items with their rightful owners, he said.
Miller was cooperating with the investigation. It was unclear whether he would face any criminal charges, Jones said. Miller could not be reached for comment. His home telephone number rang busy Wednesday evening.
The Rushville Republican reported that Miller was part of the project to build the atomic bomb in 1945.
The FBI had been communicating with Miller for several months and they want to identify those items, and if necessary, return them to their places of origin.
"We are reviewing certain artifacts and items that are in his possession. Donald C. Miller, who lives in the address behind me. We sought and obtained his cooperation in this matter. We have outside experts on the scene to identify, preserve and collect the items in his collections," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.
FBI officials said it will take time to go through the collection. They plan to be on the scene for several days.
Larry Zimmerman, a professor of anthropology and museum studies and one of several experts assisting agents in cataloging and preserving the collection, said the quality of the items was variable but Miller had maintained them in good condition.
"I have never seen a collection like this in my life except in some of the largest museums," Zimmerman said.
Other details weren't immediately released about the investigation in Rush County about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
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