Now that spring weather has arrived, TVA’s Natural Resources employees are seeing an uptick in activity by artifact hunters and others who disturb significant and protected archaeological sites on TVA-managed lands. Recent incidents include the invasion of a cave in which looters damaged a protective gate across the entrance and disturbed items found inside.
“When people dig or remove artifacts from TVA lands, they’re destroying archaeological sites,” said TVA archaeologist Erin Pritchard.
“When you dig a hole, you’re destroying part of that site. You’re destroying the context associated with that artifact, because to study human behavior you need to understand the relationship of that artifact with those that are found around it. In addition, people don’t realize they could be impacting a gravesite.”
Archaeological sites on TVA-managed lands are protected under federal law. To help combat illegal activity, Natural Resources staff created the Thousand Eyes Program, a volunteer program to teach citizens to monitor sites - to be “extra eyes” to help protect these valuable sites.
However, employees and volunteers cannot be everywhere at once, and one of the biggest ongoing challenges faced by TVA is trying to prevent people from taking these items. In addition, going into caves and other unfamiliar areas can be dangerous, both to looters and to those who must investigate.
“TVA works with federally recognized Indian tribes to protect archaeological sites found on public land,” said archaeologist Pritchard.
“They feel very strongly about the removal of their ancestors’ remains and TVA takes the protection of these resources very seriously. These resources belong to all of us and we want them to be around for future generations to appreciate and study. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.”
If you notice evidence of suspicious activity on TVA land, please contact TVA Police at (855) 476-2489.