Did relic sellers have a specific name or term for their profession?

Did relic sellers have a specific name or term for their profession?

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Was there a special name or term for people that sold fake relics to Christians on pilgrimage? Like selling swan feathers as angel feathers etc.

I do not know of any specific term for "people who sell fake relics", either applied by them or by their opponents. There are several general words that were used (in various languages) for conmen, or "shady" salesmen, not restricted to the religious context. In English, hawker, huckster, peddler and seller are examples (see their entries in the Middle English Dictionary for relevant citations, especially seller sense b, "one who accepts payment for bestowing a benefice, spiritual gift, an indulgence, etc., a simoniac"). Likewise, a counterfeiter was usually someone who forged coins, but could apply to any kind of fakery.

Meanwhile, there were religious occupations connected to money which were not necessarily illegitimate. These include the pardoner, well-known from Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, and the quaestor, someone who collects for charitable religious causes. The Venerable Bede said (in a homily on John 2, quoted in the Decretum Gratiani, Causa 1, Q. 3, c.11 that "sellers of doves, who make the house of God into a house of trade" include those who use their rank in the church or spiritual gift to achieve any kind of human reward. 1 Many such peddlers of relics did hold some genuine church office; and they did not necessarily sell the relics, but would often use them to solicit donations. People like this are well-described with phrases like "a crooked quaestor".

Selling (real) relics is an example of simony, and people who do that may be called simoniacs or simonites. The name comes from Simon Magus (Acts 8), and was applied to a broad range of offences, including the sale of ecclesiastical offices, goods, or services. Other Biblical terms, somewhat rarer, are giezites (after Gehazi in 2 Kings 5, who claimed payment from Naaman in exchange for Elisha's gift of healing) and dove-sellers or money-changers (from Jesus throwing those people out of the Temple, in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 2).

The buyer and the seller are both simoniacs (see for example Peter Lombard's Sentences, Book 4, Distinction 25, Chapters 2-6). Money need not be involved: exchanging sacred things for favors, say, is also bad. Canon lawyers and theologians argued that the intent was important - since Simon Magus was condemned even though he had not actually succeeded in buying anything, and Gehazi was not the one who had actually healed Naaman. This argument is developed, for example, in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica 2(2), Question 100, and his commentary on the Sentences. Therefore, even the sale of false relics would be covered by the category of simony. As far as I can see, canon law lacks specific snappy labels for different kinds of simony - there are just long technical phrases along the lines of "those who expose for sale the relics of saints" or "quaestores who misrepresent themselves" (Fourth Lateran Council, c.62).

1. Non solum uenditores sunt columbarum, et domum Dei faciunt domum negotiationis, qui sacros ordines, largiendo precium pecuniae, uel laudis, uel etiam honoris inquirunt; uerum hi quoque, qui gradum uel gratiam in ecclesia spiritualem, quam Domino largiente perceperunt, non simplici intentione, sed cuiuslibet humanae causa retributionis exercent.

According to Conan Doyle in his well-researched novel The White Company, the term for such a person is coquillart. I've not come across it elsewhere, however, nor found any other term for such a person.


This article concerns content exclusive to the original World of Warcraft game release.

Relic refers to a type of equipment that was worn in the now removed relic equipment slot by death knights, druids, paladins and shamans (for other classes the slot was for ranged weapons). Relics were added in Patch 1.10.0. Relics usually give bonuses to a specific spell or ability. The relic slot replaced the ranged weapon for these classes. Formerly Warlocks equipped Spellstones and Firestones in the same way (though in the ranged weapon slot as they can use wands) but they were changed to temporary enchantment items in patch 3.0.2.

There were four different types of relics, each specific to a class:

As of Cataclysm, any relic-using class can use any relic (although they may not benefit as much depending on the stats).

Facts About the History of Professional Counseling

Counseling is broadly defined as the professional provision of assistance or guidance to those seeking help with personal problems or difficulties. This modern definition, though generally accurate, makes it easy to conflate counseling with other mental health practices. It also belies the roots of counseling that reach back for centuries.

Counseling Is Different from Therapy

The term “counselor” is often used interchangeably with “therapist” and even “psychiatrist.” However, the fields are distinct from each other. Counseling refers to a professionally trained individual helping others focus on correcting specific issues that affect their lives. More specifically, the American Counseling Association defines counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.”

These issues may be anything from marital problems to addiction to self-sabotaging habits. Whereas therapy may go on for many years with no specific end in sight, counseling is focused on discrete solutions for specific issues, and often involves learning specific techniques for either coping with problems, avoiding them, or preventing their occurrence.

Counseling as a Historic Tradition

Those who read historic literature will find numerous instances of the word “counselor,” along with synonyms such as “advisor” or “elder.” In the past, figures of authority routinely gathered trusted companions around them to help with decision-making, while family members transitioned with age into role of providing wisdom to younger generations.

But as tribal communities gave way to cities and families dispersed across the world, the organic establishment of counselor figures was replaced by dedicated professionals who made a study of cultivating wisdom and making it available to those in need. Up until the twentieth century, people sought counselors among academia, the clergy, the medical profession and, of course, within the burgeoning field of psychotherapy.

Three Major Approaches to Counseling

As psychotherapy cemented its credibility, the field began to evolve into new schools of thought. Varieties of practitioner-patient dynamics emerged and opinions on best practices began to diverge. This is the point at which counseling became seen as distinct from therapy, psychiatry and other fields.

But even in counseling, there are a variety of practical approaches. Experts seem to agree that these differences in counseling practices boil down to a perception of the patient.

The three major approaches of counseling include:

Psychodynamic: Evolved from the work of Sigmund Freud, this approach has much in common with traditional psychotherapy. It seeks to address behavioral issues by addressing past experiences that have fostered unconscious beliefs.

Humanistic: Developed by Carl Rogers, this approach revolutionized the field of counseling by calling for patients to explore their own present thoughts and feelings. It urges clients to work out their own solutions to problems with their counselor’s help.

Behavioral: If you’ve heard of a “Pavlovian response,” you understand the basics of this counseling approach. The guiding principle is that every behavior is learned, and therefore harmful behaviors can be corrected by learning new, helpful behaviors.

Embarking upon a degree in counseling means entering into a long legacy of conscientious care for the social good. As you pursue your masters in counseling, you will uncover personal passions and areas of skill that will guide you into the right combination of approaches for your practice.

Early Forms of Social Security

A large segment of American citizens received an early form of social security decades before President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935.

Starting in 1862, hundreds of thousands of veterans disabled in the Civil War and their widows and orphans could apply for a government pension for veterans. In 1890, the law was amended to include any disabled Civil War veteran, regardless of how the disability occurred. In 1906, the law was amended again to include old age as a criterion.

Company pension plans came on the scene in 1882 when the Alfred Dolge Company created a pension fund for its employees. A handful of companies followed suit, but few employees received even a nickel. Most of the companies went out of business before the pensions could be distributed, or the pensions were never dispersed.

A Brief History of the GIF, From Early Internet Innovation to Ubiquitous Relic

What do Barack Obama, the sloth from Zootopia, and a bear waving its paw have in common? All were named “most popular in 2016” for that most zeitgeist-y of Internet memes: animated GIFs. Since their creation 30 years ago, the looping clips have followed a rocky path to stardom, going from ubiquitous to repudiated and back again. Whether you love them or decry their infantilizing impact on language, it’s impossible to go long without seeing them on the news, social media, or even in office Slack rooms. Thanks to the humble GIF, no emotions are too big or small to capture in animated image form.

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Developer Steve Wilhite and his team at tech giant CompuServe had a problem to solve: how to make a computer display an image while also saving memory. It was 1987, four years before the advent of the World Wide Web, when users who wanted to access email or transfer files did so with hourly subscriptions from companies like CompuServe. Then as now, the issue was space. How could a color image file be shared without taking up too much of the computer’s memory? Wilhite found a way to do so using a compression algorithm (more on this soon) combined with image parameters like the number of available colors (256). His new creation could be used for exchange images between computers, and he called it Graphics Interchange Format. The GIF was born.

(For the record, Wilhite pronounces his creation with a soft G, using a play on the peanut butter ad as a demonstration: “Choosy developers choose GIF.” He reiterated the point when he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Webby Awards. But that has hardly settled the debate, as many others insist on the hard “g” as in the word “gift” but without the “t”. Even dictionaries like Oxford English have unhelpfully declared both pronunciations valid.)

Initially, GIFs were used almost exclusively for still images. What made the format revolutionary was a specific compression algorithm, named Lempel-Ziv-Welch for its three creators (Abraham Lemepl, Jacob Ziv and Terry Welch). The way it worked was to identify repeating patterns, then simplify them, allowing for lossless compression of files—meaning none of the data is trimmed in the shortening process. As Eric Limer explains in Popular Mechanics:

[LZW] let computers invent a whole new phrase like ‘blite’ pixel for combinations like ‘a blue pixel, a white pixel,’ but also combo-phrases like ‘bliteple’ for ‘blite pixel, purple pixel’ and on and on, cramming more and more information into a single new word. This approach made the GIF uniquely talented at fitting photorealistic color images with their interwoven colors into small and practical packages.

Included in the file were multiple variations of the still image, which could be strung together to create a looping video, like a flipbook. The first example of this was a weather map. But when developers took to the World Wide Web in 1991, they mostly used still images. The first color picture online was even a GIF.

“GIF soon became a world standard, and also played an important role in the Internet community,” writes software developer Mike Battilana. “Many developers wrote (or acquired under license) software supporting GIF without even needing to know that a company named CompuServe existed.”

And therein lay one major problem: because the LZW algorithm that made GIFs possible was actually under patent, owned by a company called Unisys Corp. And in 1995, after years of developers having a free-for-all with their GIFs, suddenly Unisys wanted to make good on their patent. They announced they would be charging a small royalty (.45 percent and .65 percent on different products) for software that used the algorithm, including TIFF and PDF as well as GIF. Their patent wouldn’t run out until 2003 in the U.S. and 2004 everywhere else.

Developers’ reactions ranged from the practical—creating a new file format named PNG (at one point named PING for “Ping Is Not Gif”) that didn’t use the LZW algorithm—to the theatrical. On the latter end of this spectrum was “Burn All GIFs” day, held on November 5, 1999, when developers gathered together to delete their GIF files. “Burn All GIFs Day may be the first time in human history that anyone has ever thought it worthwhile to stage an organized political protest, even a small one, over a mathematical algorithm,” wrote The Atlantic at the time. Even though Unisys only asked large companies to buy licenses rather than individual non-commercial users, developers still felt like the patent was a threat.

GIF images were largely phased out, especially since other file formats now did a better job when it came to static pictures. But nobody else could fill one niche that GIF had cornered: animated images. And so, even as the Internet evolved beyond early HTML, the scrappy old GIF clung on for dear life.

“Before, GIFs were dressing up the content,” says Jason Eppink, curator of digital media at the Museum of Moving Images. GIFs were clip-art images and construction symbols, he explains. But now—“the GIF itself has become the destination.”

Part of the reason the GIF survived even after the GIF purge, Eppink thinks, is because it fit the DIY spirit of the early Internet. It was a small file, it could be downloaded and stored on individual servers, and nothing really came along to replace its animation style: that short, continuous, soundless loop.

“Like most digital media, it fills a need but it kind of also created the need,” says Kevin Zeng Hu, a Ph.D researcher at the MIT Media Lab. “We all know how unwieldy texting can be and how much context can be lost, especially emotional context. Once you make it visual, you have a higher bandwidth to convey nuance.”

Hu partnered with Travis Rich in 2014 to create GIFGIF, a project aimed at quantifying the emotions that come from certain GIFs. The site functions almost as an intentional A-B test, with users being asked to identify which of two GIFs better represents an emotion. To date they’ve received almost 3.2 million responses, and were impressed by the accuracy of the top GIFs for each emotion. 

In the years since the project began, Hu says GIFs have become better indexed and are more easily usable, thanks to platforms like Giphy. Ironically, today many of the GIFs seen on sites like Twitter and Imgur are actually video files that have been coded to behave like GIFs, simply because new video technology is more efficient than the outdated GIF storage format. “It kind of transcended the file format to become a name for this specific cultural meme,” says Hu.

For Eppink, another unique aspect of GIFs is their lack of authorship and how divorced they become from their source material. Just because you’re familiar with a GIF—say, a kid at an old computer giving you a thumbs up—doesn’t mean you have any idea where that animation came from. “Most of the time when excerpts are used, they’re still the property of the thing they came from. There’s something interesting in GIFs in that they become their own entity,” Eppink says.

For now, GIFs are protected from copyright claims by fair use doctrine (which protects copying material for limited and transformative purposes), though that protection hasn’t been tested in court. In the past, sports associations like the NFL and the NCAA’s Big 12 conference have sent claims to Twitter about accounts using GIFs of sports events, and the International Olympic Committee unsuccessfully tried to ban GIFs from the 2016 Olympics. 

Despite the uncertainty over the GIF’s legal future, it’s a cultural icon with staying power. GIFs have even appeared twice at the Museum of the Moving Image. In 2014 they hosted an installation on reaction GIFs, and this June they’ll have another exhibition dedicated to the animated images: a GIF elevator, its walls and ceiling covered in the looping pictures where visitors can be immersed in a single, perpetual moment.

“A successful GIF is one that is shared,” Eppink wrote in an article on the history of GIFs for the Journal of Visual Culture. “Even though individuals process the pixels, communities make the GIFs.” 

Diagnosis: The scrubs market is comatose. The cure? Add fashion and function.

What's the biggest danger in growing too fast? Missing the opportunity to learn the lessons worth learning. From an operational and financial perspective, making sure that the infrastructure scales with sales.

Number of vacation days taken in the past year: 0

Have you ever turned down VC funding? Yes. Figs has never accepted capital for the sake of capital. Aligned goals, values, and ethos are important for any successful arrangement.

What are the biggest obstacles to your company's growth? Managing demand. Finding and retaining good staff. Difficulty securing suppliers or materials.

Types of Opiates

German scientist Friedrich Sertürner first isolated morphine from opium in 1803. Morphine, a very powerful painkiller, is the active narcotic ingredient in opium.

In its pure form, morphine is ten times stronger than opium. The drug was widely used as a painkiller during the U.S. Civil War. As a result, an estimated 400,000 soldiers became addicted.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, scientists had begun to look for a less addictive form of morphine, and in 1874, an English chemist named Alder Wright first refined heroin from a morphine base. The drug was intended to be a safer replacement for morphine.

Morphine is still the precursor to all other opioids, including prescription narcotic painkillers such as codeine, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol) and oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin).


Back when Bill Gates and Paul Allen announced their intention to put a computer in every home and on every desktop, most people scoffed. Until then, only the government and large corporations could afford computers. But within only a few decades, Gates and Microsoft had indeed brought computer power to the people.

Gates also has had an impact on millions of people throughout the world with his charitable efforts, especially with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and he has made large personal donations to a number of educational institutions.

A brief history of baking

When did people in Britain first start baking bread, cakes and biscuits? What ingredients and equipment did they use, and was baking expensive? Here, food historians Professor John Walter and Dr Sara Pennell explore the history of baking…

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Published: August 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Middle Ages

In the medieval period baking was a luxury few were able to enjoy. But those who could afford a wood-burning stove (and to heat it) would start with bread. The better the quality, the higher up the social order you were

Ovens were not a standard fixture in any household, so bread-baking never really entered the home in the medieval period, says Pennell. It was a niche, commercial activity. For example, you had bread-bakers in London.

Rich people ate fine, floured wheat bread. But if you were poor you cut your teeth on rye and black bread, says Walter. Only the very wealthy ate the cakes we tend to think of today. But they were much heavier – 10 to 20lbs. This was subsistence-focused baking, with an emphasis on bread and pies.

“If you were wealthy, your baked goods would be rich in exotic colour. But if you were poor, you were grateful if you could afford meat for your pie,” says Walter.

15th century

Britain saw an explosion of expensive spices, such as saffron, in the 15th century. Sweet dough, with lots of cream and butter, started to be enjoyed by those who could afford it

The wigg – a small bun made with sweetened dough and herbs and spices – became popular.

But mince pies were made with minced beef or mutton, and biscuits were “the equivalent of Ryvita – pretty nasty stuff,” says Walter.

Meanwhile, gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs.

16th and 17th centuries

Baking was transformed in the 16th and 17th centuries by globalisation, which heralded an explosion of treacle and currants. Plump cake and bready dough with lots of butter, cream and raisins became popular

Economic growth prompted an emerging middle class, and baking ‘trickled down’, says Walter. Amid growing wealth and social change, people could think about eating things other than bread, and imitate the upper-class diet.

Baking became more accessible, and so more people started to bake cakes and biscuits.

By the late 17th century sugar was cheap, and so you saw the emergence of mince pies as we know them, made with sugar and spices. And with the refinement of flour you saw the development of gingerbread as we know it.

From the 16th century came the first cookery literature, in which you start to see recipes for things we might recognise today as small, yeasted cakes and buns, says Pennell. They would be eaten as part of the dessert course, to help you digest the rich meal you had eaten beforehand.

You also started to see the emergence of kitchen equipment, such as the ‘cake hoop’ – that is, a cake tin. The tin was lined with buttered paper.

But cakes were made with ale and were very solid. The modern-day equivalent, in terms of the yeast-bread-based dough, would be a lardy cake. Seed cakes were also popular.

Pastries, too, were considered fashionable in the late 17th century. The English prided themselves on their pastry-making and it was considered a skill all good housewives should have, says Pennell. London cookery schools also began to teach pastry-making – it was a fashionable skill.

18th century

Cake-making soared in popularity in the 18th century, but the industrial revolution from 1760 saw a return to more stodgy baked goods

The 18th century was when cake-making really took off, says Dr Pennell.

The Art of Cookery, written by Hannah Glasse and published in 1747, contained a catalogue of cake recipes. Integral to this was the development of the semi-closed oven. “The development of baking is as much to do with technology as it is taste,” says Pennell.

Fast-forward to the industrial revolution and Britain saw a return to heavy baking, where the working class ate bread and jam, says Walter. But at Easter, Christmas and other seasonal occasions, a richer diet would be available to even the poorer members of society.

Merchants and shopkeepers could afford ovens by the 18th century, and to bake.

19th century

Convenience food grew in popularity in the 19th century, and the advent of baking powder saw cakes become lighter

As more working-class women were employed in the 19th century, they had less time for elaborate food preparation, says Walter. “We often think of the ‘fast food culture’ as being a recent thing, but women in Britain in the 19th century increasingly relied on convenience food such as pasties and pies.”

Meanwhile, the introduction of baking powder saw the style of cakes change from dense, yeast-based bakes, into cakes made with flour, eggs, fat and a raising agent.

Professor John Walter is Emeritus Professor in the Department of History at the University of Essex, specialising in popular political culture in early modern England.

Dr Sara Pennell is a senior history lecturer at the University of Greenwich who specialises in social and cultural histories of 17th and 18th-century Britain, with particular interests in food cultures, health and architecture.

This article was first published by History Extra in October 2013

An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever

At dawn on June 10, 2009, almost 100 federal agents pulled up to eight homes in Blanding, Utah, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying side arms. An enormous cloud hung over the region, one of them recalled, blocking out the rising sun and casting an ominous glow over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. At one hilltop residence, a team of a dozen agents banged on the door and arrested the owners—a well-respected doctor and his wife. Similar scenes played out across the Four Corners that morning as officers took an additional 21 men and women into custody. Later that day, the incumbent interior secretary and deputy U.S. attorney general, Ken Salazar and David W. Ogden, announced the arrests as part of “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.” The agents called it Operation Cerberus, after the three-headed hellhound of Greek mythology.

From This Story

The search-and-seizures were the culmination of a multi-agency effort that spanned two and a half years. Agents enlisted a confidential informant and gave him money—more than $330,000—to buy illicit artifacts. Wearing a miniature camera embedded in a button of his shirt, he recorded 100 hours of videotape on which sellers and collectors casually discussed the prices and sources of their objects. The informant also accompanied diggers out to sites in remote canyons, including at least one that agents had rigged with motion-detecting cameras.

The haul from the raid was spectacular. In one suspect’s home, a team of 50 agents and archaeologists spent two days cataloging more than 5,000 artifacts, packing them into museum-quality storage boxes and loading those boxes into five U-Haul trucks. At another house, investigators found some 4,000 pieces. They also discovered a display room behind a concealed door controlled by a trick lever. In all, they seized some 40,000 objects—a collection so big it now fills a 2,300-square-foot warehouse on the outskirts of Salt Lake City and spills into parts of the nearby Natural History Museum of Utah.

In some spots in the Four Corners, Operation Cerberus became one of the most polarizing events in memory. Legal limitations on removing artifacts from public and tribal (but not private) lands date back to the Antiquities Act of 1906, but a tradition of unfettered digging in some parts of the region began with the arrival of white settlers in the 19th century. Among the 28 modern Native American communities in the Four Corners, the raids seemed like a long-overdue attempt to crack down on a travesty against their lands and cultures—“How would you feel if a Native American dug up your grandmother and took her jewelry and clothes and sold them to the highest bidder?” Mark Mitchell, a former governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque, asked me. But some white residents felt that the raid was an example of federal overreach, and those feelings were inflamed when two of the suspects, including the doctor arrested in Blanding, committed suicide shortly after they were arrested. (A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his widow is pending.) The prosecution’s case was not helped when its confidential informant also committed suicide before anyone stood trial.

Ultimately, 32 people were pulled in, in Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. None of them were Native American, although one trader tried vainly to pass himself off as one. Twenty-four were charged with violating the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, among other laws. Two cases were dropped because of the suicides, and three were dismissed. No one went to prison. The remainder reached plea agreements and, as part of those deals, agreed to forfeit the artifacts confiscated in the raid.

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This story is a selection from the November issue of Smithsonian magazine.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has custody of the collection, spent the last five years simply creating an inventory of the items. “Nothing on this scale has ever been done before, not in terms of investigating the crimes, seizing the artifacts and organizing the collection,” BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall told me. Before they were seized, these objects had been held in secret, stashed in closets and under beds or locked away in basement museums. But no longer. Recently the BLM gave Smithsonian an exclusive first look at the objects it has cataloged.

Beyond the sheer size of the collection is its range: Some of the objects, such as projectile points and metates, or grinding stones, date to about 6,000 B.C. Among the more than 2,000 intact ceramic vessels, many appear to be from the Ancestral Puebloan people, or Anasazi, who lived on the Colorado Plateau for some ten centuries before they mysteriously departed around A.D. 1400. The Hohokam, who occupied parts of Arizona from A.D. 200 to 1450, are represented by shell pendants and ceramic bowls the Mogollon, who thrived in northern Mexico and parts of Arizona and New Mexico from A.D. 300 to 1300, by pottery and painted arrow shafts. An undated sacred headdress belonged to the White Mountain Apaches, while a buffalo mask from the early 20th century is being returned to the Pueblo people in Taos. “You won’t find some of these items anywhere else,” said Kara Hurst, who was a curator of the BLM trove for three years until 2013, when she became supervisory registrar at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “We’ve heard stories about some of these objects. But not even Native Americans had seen some of these things before.”

It’s possible that no one will be able to see them outside the Cerberus collection, because archaeologists today rarely dig in the alcoves and cliff dwellings from which many items were taken. “There’s no money to support legitimate excavations of alcoves today,” said Laurie Webster, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History who specializes in Southwestern perishable objects. “So you’ll never be able to excavate artifacts like these again.”

Many of the artifacts are remarkably well-preserved, even though they’re composed of delicate materials such as wood, hide and fiber. That’s partly a testament to the desert climate of the Four Corners—but also an indicator that at least some of the objects may have come from caves or other well-protected funerary sites, which has been a source of particular anguish to Native peoples. “The dead are never supposed to be disturbed. Ever,” Dan Simplicio, a Zuni and cultural specialist at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, told me.

Roughly a quarter of the collection has high research potential, according to a preliminary survey by Webster. At the same time, the mass of objects is an archaeologist’s nightmare, because so many lack documentation of where and in what context they were found. “Stolen pieces usually don’t come with papers unless those papers are hot off the printer,” Crandall said.

In some cases, it’s not clear whether the relics are even genuine. Two human effigies, about six inches tall and made of corn stalk, yucca cordage and wood, are a case in point. One has an oversize erection, while the other has a dent between the legs. A dealer called them “fertility figures,” labeled them as from southeastern Utah, and dated them to about 200 B.C. to A.D. 400.

Webster had never seen any figures like them before, and she initially thought they were fakes. But on closer inspection she saw that the yucca cordage appears to be authentic and from somewhere between 200 B.C. and A.D. 400. Now, she believes the figures could be genuine—and would be of extreme cultural value. “This would be the earliest example of a fertility figure in this region,” said Webster, earlier than the flute-playing deity Kokopelli, who did not appear until about A.D. 750. To investigate this artifact further, scholars will have to find their own research funds.

A multicolored ceramic bowl tells a more bittersweet tale. The exterior is the color of a flaming desert sunset, and the interior features bold geometric shapes and black and red lines it is clearly in what archaeologists call the Salado style, a genre that appeared around A.D. 1100 and blended elements of Anasazi, Mogollon and Hohokam pottery. The piece was slightly marred by a few cracks, but more damaging are the “acid blooms” inside the bowl—evidence that someone used a contemporary soap to clean away centuries of dirt. The idea is that restored or “clean” vessels will fetch more money on the black market, said Nancy Mahaney, a BLM curator. “It’s been very interesting to work with the collection, because you can see the extent to which people will go to gain financially.”

With its inventory done, the BLM will give priority to returning whatever objects it can to the tribes from which they were taken. Even though the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has highly specific guidelines for repatriating artifacts, several experts in the Native American community said the process will be complicated by the lack of documentation.

Once the BLM’s repatriation effort is complete, which will take several more years, the agency will have to find homes for the artifacts that remain. It hopes to form partnerships with museums that can both display the artifacts and offer opportunities for scholars to research them. “Part of our hope is that we will form partnerships with Native American communities, especially those that have museums,” said Mahaney. The Navajo have a large museum, while the Zuni, Hopi and others have cultural centers. Blanding, Utah, where several of the convicted looters live, has the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. Even so, it will take years of study before the Cerberus collection begins to yield its secrets.

About Kathleen Sharp

Kathleen Sharp is a contributor to Salon, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is the author of several books, including Blood Medicine: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever. Her work has appeared in Elle, Vanity Fair, Parade and other magazines.

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