Federal raids on antiquities hunters and collectors in the Southwest unearth ordinary citizens.

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After federal raids last week on the somewhat casual, small-town traffic in illicit Southwest artifacts, one prominent pot hunter is dead and nearly a dozen more are under indictment.

The criminal actions grew out of a two-year undercover investigation in the Four Corners region, in which a wired informant purchased more than $300,000 in illicit antiquities. Most were bought in the high desert town of Blanding, Utah.

You might have an imaginary picture of the pot hunters and collectors who live there, a crew of dirty, well-armed black-market privateers roving the desert (in the case of many Western pot hunters, you'd be right). But the scenario becomes more complicated when you look closely at who is actually named. The federal action laid bare a little known culture of ordinary citizens who collect and sell human history.

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