A 95-year old Australian woman who participated in archeological digs during the 1960’s is under fire for keeping the objects she physically collected during these excavations.

Her travails started when she showed some of her treasures during an interview for a feature news piece.

Joan Howard of Perth, Australia, shared some of the highlights of her collection with The West Australian, a local news outlet, which reported the collection could be valued at AUD $1 million. Now, some archaeologists and officials are asking the Australian government to investigate how Howard obtained the rare objects and are demanding that she return any that were taken from their countries of origin illegally.

Monica Hanna, an archeologist and founder of Egypt’s Heritage Taskforce, started an online petition calling for an investigation by the Australian government into the origins of Howard’s artifacts. So far, the petition has received nearly 500 signatures. Hanna also wrote an open letter to Neil Hawkins, the Australian ambassador to Egypt, on Facebook.

Howard was the wife of a UN diplomat, and she would accompany him on archaeology digs while he was stationed in various countries. The West Australia feature piece is entitled Indiana Joan – Meet WA’s real life tomb raider, 95-year-old Joan Howard. The piece pays tribute to the blockbuster movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It was the late 1960s, a turbulent time in the Middle East, but the thrill of discovery drove Mrs Howard deeper into the grave.

Sluggish scorpions scattered and clacked amid the bones of the ancient dead as she scooped artefacts and the detritus of ages into a bucket.

Only when it was full did she inch backwards. Ten metres above her, at the top of a vertical shaft hewn out of the desert bedrock, a colleague began to winch her swaying bucket of artefacts to the surface

…Mrs Howard, 95, is WA’s real-life tomb raider. There is a mischievous twinkle in the great-grandmother’s eye as she reveals why she has humbly kept quiet about her derring-do.

“You don’t go round saying ‘I’ve been in a tomb’,” Mrs Howard said.

It is important to note that the regulations regarding the collection and trading of antiquities was really taking off at the time that Howard was moving on to the next phase of her life.

In 1970, the Unesco convention on illicit trade of cultural property made it illegal to remove such items from their country of origin.

The Australian Dept. of Foreign affairs and Trade said it was investigating whether any of the items had been illegally exported, and would need to be returned, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The fact that Howard was collecting during another era with different cultural expectations seems to have completely escaped the social justice crowd. The elderly adventuress is being pilloried by the “morally superior set”.

Some outraged busybodies took exception to the fun take on Howard’s life, as presented in the fluff piece.

Though this commentor had more of a sense of historic perspective.

It is too bad that an elderly woman who merely wanted to share her love of history and adventure as an inspiration to others has become the latest social justice villain. I hope the Australian officials are fair and just in their assessment of her collection.

At 95 years old, Howard shouldn’t lose her treasures because the rules that existed when collected them are different now. She should also not be unfairly punished because she is the current target of a cultural justice crusade.

The good news is that at her age, Howard isn’t likely to engage in social media, so hopefully she remains oblivious to the millennial blather.