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Few leads in theft of tribal baskets

STANFORD -- Stanford police investigating the disappearance of 17 baskets made by Northern California American Indians a century ago have few leads a week after the crime.

The baskets, made by Karuk Indians in the latter stages of the 19th century, were taken from a single display case in the Anthropology Department's Keesing Museum sometime between 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, and 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 4.

That morning, secretaries arriving for work noticed that the door to the one-room museum had been removed. The theft was reported by John Rick, associate professor of anthropology and curator for anthropology and archaeology collections.

The objects taken include 13 Karuk basketry caps and four larger Karuk or Yurok baskets. The items belonged to the Stanford University Museum of Art and were in the Anthropology Department as part of an exhibit on basket designs.

Thomas K. Seligman, director of the Stanford Museum, said the missing items had been collected during the second half of the 19th century by John Daggett, who became friendly with various tribes while exploring Northern California mining claims. His collection of Yurok, Karuk and Hupa basketry was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair, and then loaned to the Stanford Museum. Jane Stanford purchased the collection for the museum in 1899.

Seligman said the items taken were not of ritual significance, but were outstanding examples of basketry as used in daily life. He said it was the museum's hope the objects would be returned voluntarily. Besides the police investigation, a notice, containing photographs, has been sent by the museum to all members of the Association of Tribal Art Dealers of America, to leading collectors and auction houses, and to the Stolen Art Alert of the International Federation for Art Research.

Stanford Police Sgt. Del Bandy said the FBI was notified so its nationwide resources could assist in the investigation. Police have not said if they have determined the motive.



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