Well, now that three men have killed themselves in Blandings, Utah after being charged with trafficking in thousand-year-old Indian artifacts, it seems a bit less allegorical.
It's a pretty sad story, really... almost like a Lars von Trier movie... (except sympathetic).
Since the town's founding in 1950, people have been wandering out into the wilderness and hunting for relics in the same way people go bird watching. Way back when, apparently, it was all pretty innocent, with profit not really coming into play:
The children mostly favoured arrowheads. Their parents lined mantelpieces with finely decorated pottery snatched from the soil, and hung the ancient jewellery on their walls.
But amateur collecting slowly developed into more serious excavation, and not the good archaeological kind—we're talking about the machine-driven ransacking of grave sites. Said one local man, who went on from a childhood of treasure hunting to become an archaeologist:
I've been physically sick, truly nauseated by things I've seen walking in to these sites. One day you've got a relatively intact site that's been sitting there for 12,000 years and the next day it's a bombed-out crater, a landscape of craters and human bones strewn all over the place.
Despite an FBI raid in the 80s, things really picked up with the DAWN OF THE INTERNET, as the citizens of Blandings realized that the adorable stripey pot on the mantle was actually worth $5 thousand. And that's when the FBI came back to town, swooping in last year and arresting everyone in sight on charges of trafficking in illegal antiquities. The scandal was too much for three men prominent in the small town who eventually killed themselves.
So, actual curse from the netherworld? Or just further proof that greed doesn't pay? I'm just going to go with a bit of both on this one...