FBI Seizes Thousands of Ancient Artifacts From Indiana Home


A 91-year-old man, Donald Miller of Waldorn, Indiana has been found to have collected thousands of ancient artifacts over a span of 80 years and storing them in his home.  The artifacts were seized by the FBI on Wednesday, who have promised to return those items which the owner had no right to possess due to federal and state laws as well as treaties.  Among the items are Native American, Russian, Chinese, Peruvian, Haitian, and Australian relics as well as more from other countries.

In a news conference, Special Agent Robert Jones of the FBI called the cultural value of the artifacts “immeasurable,” but would not give detailed information on any of the items individually.  He declined to offer information as to why the investigation into Miller’s collection began, but he acknowledged that the FBI had received information about the artifacts and deployed its art crime team to investigate.  The monetary value of the relics has not been determined.

Miller, a world traveler who claims to have visited 200 countries, collected items from places he visited.  Although some of the artifacts were not obtained through proper channels, some of the items were collected legally or prior to laws against their collection being passed.  The artifacts were stored in several buildings located on Miller’s property, which was originally Iroquois land,  including in the main house where he resided and a second house which is currently unoccupied.  News helicopters have captured images showing an FBI vehicle and numerous tents on the property.

A neighbor of Miller’s who had seen his collection while doing work on his home told WISH-TV that she had seen a “full skeleton” and “Indiana artifacts.”  Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies Larry Zimmerman of Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis is helping the FBI with collecting, recording, and preserving the condition of the artifacts.  He noted that although the quality of individual items varied, Miller had kept all of them in good condition.  Zimmerman added that he had seen collections like Miller’s only in “the largest museums.”

Being able to determine how old the artifacts are as well as from where they came will take a great deal of time, especially considering that Miller amassed the collection over 80 years.  Among the items discovered in his home are an anaconda skin measuring 60 feet long, jade from the Ming Dynasty, and shrunken heads.

Shawnee descendant Dark Rain Thom, who served under three governors as part of the Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission, said that artifacts are normally discovered after the death of an elderly person, whose surviving family members must determine what should be done with them.

The elderly man, a former teacher and part of the World War II Manhattan Project which built the atomic bomb,  is cooperating with the FBI on their investigation and insisted to CBS News that he possessed and owned the artifacts rightfully.  It has not been determined if Miller will be charged criminally for his possession of the artifacts.

By Jennifer Pfalz

Fox News
CBS News
News Sentinel

14 Responses to "FBI Seizes Thousands of Ancient Artifacts From Indiana Home"

  1. Caryl Anne   May 13, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Great story! Personally, I don’t believe that he intentional “stole” these artifacts. He recovered them himself and might not have realized how important they were, etc. Either way, it’s amazing to see how well preserved his collection is and how many items he has collected. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dr. David Morris   April 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    If this understanding of U.S. law is correct, are their similiar actions planned for the
    Smithsonian staff and collection? And, what about other similiar instituions in the U.S.?

  3. Rebecca Savastio   April 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Excellent job on this story, Jen. I echo everyone’s sentiments when I say I am shocked and astounded that the FBI would be bothering a 91 year old man over his private collection. With all of the real crime going on the world, this is what they are bothering with? Totally crazy!

  4. NotSayingMyName   April 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    This government action seems like something you would hear from China or Russia, not America. I read this story with astonishment. I cannot believe we spend tax dollars creating laws that serve no purpose, and then additional tax dollars enforcing them. This poor man has lived through the greatest times of our country, and has lived long enough to see all our rights vaporize in a little more than a decade. Were do we go from here? Invading homes with too many organic foods in the kitchen and an herb garden in the yard? Oh wait, we already do that.

  5. Victor Edwards   April 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    How is that hope and change working out for everybody?

  6. Don   April 3, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    He collected over a span of 80 years? 91-80= 11. He started collecting at age 11?

  7. subra   April 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    He might be Indiana Jones!

  8. David   April 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Oh, great–now it’s a crime to own things. US government FAIL!

  9. krrq   April 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    What a colossal waste of time a resources.

  10. Sarah   April 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Oh leave the old man alone. They just want their money.

  11. jojobatesrants   April 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    So much for property rights in the US of A. No matter what you have, the government can just come in and take it at any time.

  12. Yop   April 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Really? This is what our tax dollars are going to? Catching an old guy who collects anaconda skins and shrunken heads while the real criminals run free. If the collection is that old he probably DID obtain most of it legally, and if it is a crime simply to possess the items, it is certainly a victimless crime.

  13. poop   April 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    let him keep them, no harm being done.

  14. Jay   April 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Good job FBI. You found that 91 yr old criminal! If only you were any good at catching real criminals doing real crimes…. Murder,terrorism,rape


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