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Large hole found at Saltair; looting suspected

An aerial photo of one of the holes believed to be dug by looters at the historic Saltair location on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. (Photo: Utah State History)

SALT LAKE CITY — State authorities are trying to find out who dug a massive hole on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, near the site of the old Saltair.

It appears it was to dig for artifacts and take them away from the state land.

Christopher Merritt, deputy state historic preservation officer with Utah Division of State History, was at the old site this week with a student intern, documenting the area with a drone, and they spotted the hole from above.

“In the 15 years of doing professional archaeology, one, I’ve never seen such extensive and intense looting effort and, two, it is well-structured — like straight walls. It looks like an archaeologist dig out there,” he said.

Measurements put it at 31×34 feet and 2 feet deep in places.

Merritt told ksl.com they are putting up new warning signs this week, to remind the public that digging in those locations, including with metal detectors, is illegal.

Merritt says sometimes people think they can just pick something up and take it away, then there are these more organized looters like what appears to be what happened in the massive hole.

He says removing artifacts is like ripping pages from a history book.

A photo of one of the holes believed to be dug by looters at the historic Saltair location on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. (Photo: Utah State History)