The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

Categories: History | North America

Who among us did not dream in childhood about the search for treasures, lost cities and unknown civilizations. But with age, the spirit of adventurism disappears from us and we become builders, doctors and businessmen. But this does not always happen. American Don Miller from a city with a very Russian name Moscow, in Indiana, was able to fulfill his childhood dream and went down in history as a traveler, archaeologist, collector, adventurer and ... a dirty guy.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

Don Miller has lived a busy and interesting life. Perhaps he would have died so peacefully of old age in his big house in the town of Moscow, Rush County, Indiana, among memories and things dear to his heart. But in his old age, or rather, at the age of 90, Don became famous, lost his property and almost went to jail.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

It all started with the fact that an anonymous person called the FBI Art theft investigation department. He told Agent Tim Carpenter that an interesting old collector lives in a remote town in Indiana. According to the "well-wisher", the home collection of the exhibits of this elderly man can put to shame the expositions of the best museums in the world.

The informant even called the figure - 200 thousand exhibits were kept in the house of a mysterious collector. What the anonymous person told looked like nonsense or gossip, but Carpenter decided to check the information. The fact is that a pensioner named Don Miller came to the attention of the FBI a few years ago. Then a piece of depleted uranium was confiscated from a thrifty old man. But no one asked what he kept in his spacious mansion.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

When Carpenter appeared on Don Miller's doorstep, the old man cordially invited him into the house. The elderly man did not hide anything — he led the agent into a huge basement under the house, which struck Tim's imagination. Carpenter estimated that there could be more than 10 thousand units of different objects in one room alone.

They represented different eras and cultures. In the basement, the agent saw Egyptian sarcophagi, Amazonian canoes, dinosaur eggs, antique amphorae, Wehrmacht helmets, Tibetan bells and much more. The experienced Carpenter had no doubt that a significant part of the exhibits had been obtained illegally.

Don Miller was glad to have someone who knew a lot about rarities. The old man readily told Carpenter the story of his life and how he had collected the collection. The collector was born in 1923 in Rush County, which he considered his home all his life. During World War II, Miller was drafted into the army.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

But he did not get to Europe, nor to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The young man completed a course of military training in Ohio and was transferred by distribution to New Mexico. So young Don Miller found himself in the holy of holies of the US nuclear program – at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

It was quite clear that a simple guy from Indiana without an education could do primitive technical work in the forge of the Manhattan Project. But Miller still boasted to Carpenter that he knew the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, well. He also told about participating in the test of Trinity, the first nuclear bomb.

But the old man's stories about his youth did not interest the FBI agent as much as the history of the collection. Miller said that after serving in the army, he was drawn to science. Don received a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and a doctorate from Purdue University.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

The silence of laboratories and scientific libraries quickly bored the active Miller. He got a job at a naval ammunition factory, and then signed up... as a volunteer missionary. Perhaps Don carried some Christian values with him around the world. Only one thing can be said for sure — wherever he was with a Bible in his hands, he carried curiosities home from everywhere in his luggage.

Sometimes Miller traveled for his main job. In this case, he had no qualms about making business trips to a military factory. Arriving at a new place, Don quickly converged with the locals, bribing them with money, alcohol and cigarettes. They told the sociable foreigner about the excavations taking place in their region and willingly fulfilled the mission of guides.

With golden hands and an amateur radio license, Miller opened a private radio station Wyman Research. But he didn't use it to broadcast news or broadcast music. A talented engineer has invented a technology that allows you to transmit photographic images using high-frequency bands. Thanks to his invention, he began to act more efficiently and faster.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

Now, in order to get valuable information, he didn't have to travel all over the world. The radio opened up incredible horizons for Don and his wife, who shared her husband's passion. He was the master of the situation and knew where what expeditions were excavating, what they were talking about in the jungles of Central Africa and the mountains of Nepal.

Miller's life was filled with dangerous adventures. He ended up in a Mexican prison for running a red light and escaped from there. He was almost executed in Libya as a CIA agent and almost eaten by savages in Papua New Guinea. The brave Miller, having set a goal, did not stop at anything.

He was scuba diving to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to get a carronade cannon from a sunken Spanish galleon. In Canada, Don drove a jeep through the taiga, made his way to someone else's plot and dug up the tusks of an ancient mastodon there. Then he boldly drove them across the border, tied to the roof of the car and covered with canvas. And another time, in Haiti, an adventurer dug up cannonballs in the fortress of La Ferriere, which is protected by UNESCO.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

It was clear to Carpenter that Miller had broken hundreds of laws. But the legal nuances of this case were incredibly complicated and the agent had to sit down for documents. Having invited two assistants, the man studied the laws of the USA and other countries where the frantic collector operated. His assumptions were confirmed — almost the entire Miller collection was collected by illegal methods.

The main trump card was the US law of 1906. He allowed only specialized organizations to engage in archaeological excavations: museums and universities. Don Miller, during his wanderings around the world, violated everything possible.

The Law on the Protection of Indian Graves and Repatriation, the Law on Wrecks, state laws prohibiting the excavation of archaeological valuables. Yes, there is also the National Law on Stolen Property, federal laws prohibiting the transportation of stolen property across state borders. Here you can add the laws of other states on the protection of cultural heritage.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

After finding out all this, Tim Carpenter went to get a search warrant. But it was not there. According to the laws of the USA, he had to formulate the basis for each object of the Miller collection! The agent would not have had enough life for this, because there were only several hundred ceramic products of the Anasazi culture in the basement.

With great difficulty, Carpenter managed to convince the Ministry of Justice staff that Miller's collection is indivisible. A search warrant was obtained. But then another problem arose — how to organize the transportation of valuables to the FBI vault. The agent had to put together an army of several jeeps and trucks, a team of experts, criminologists and representatives of indigenous peoples. In total, more than 100 people gathered.

On a winter morning in 2014, Tim Carpenter and his partner Jake Archer knocked on the door of Miller's mansion. They had a warrant in their hands, as thick as a good adventure novel. The old man surprisingly quickly agreed to voluntarily part with his collection. After that, a grandiose operation was launched to describe and export valuables.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

The rarities in Don's house were everywhere, even in the wardrobes. Unexpectedly, human remains were discovered, which no one suspected. Dozens of ancient skulls, both adults and children, were found in the collector's house. There were also pictures, terrible in their cynicism, in which Don Miller posed with someone else's bones.

Expert archaeologists were delighted with the collection. A Celtic specialist, for example, said that he had dreamed of finding a well-preserved battle axe all his life, but he was unlucky. There were more than 50 such axes in Miller's basement! The exhibits were collected in 100 countries of the world, as evidenced by 20 international passports and a collection of 18 thousand photographs.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

After the largest seizure of valuables in the history of the FBI, agents searched for a place to store exhibits for a year. No museum in the USA has ever undertaken such a responsible task. But everything was decided. Rarities began to return to Canada, Cambodia, Mexico, Ecuador, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Spain and China.

The bones of more than 500 Indians of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa tribes were handed over to the communities and those, having performed the ceremony, buried the remains. The work is not finished yet — the exhibits from Miller's basement are still looking for owners and are traveling around the world. The "Indiana Jones" from the state of Indiana does not care anymore — the old man died a year after the seizure of antiquities. With his death, the criminal case was stopped.

The non-fictional story of Indiana Jones from Moscow, which caused a stir in the FBI

In modern history, only one person can compare with Don Miller. A simple Soviet electrician from Kirovograd, Alexander Ilyin, collected a collection of curiosities that even put the Hermitage to shame.

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