TVA Cultural Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a cultural resource?
It’s a location where human activity, occupation, or use has taken place in the past. Cultural resources are identified through field surveys, historical documents, or oral evidence, and they include archaeological sites, historic sites like battlefields, historic structures, and historic items such as the Liberty Bell.
What is archaeology?
Archaeology is the scientific study of past human cultures through analysis of the material remains that people in the past have left behind.
Am I allowed to collect artifacts or relics from TVA land?
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) makes it illegal to excavate archaeological sites on federal property, which includes TVA land, without a research permit. Although there are no penalties under this act for removing arrowheads that you find on the ground, these artifacts are still considered federal property and you can be charged with Theft of Government Property if found to be in possession of artifacts taken from TVA property. It’s important to understand that artifacts by themselves do not tell us anything about people of the past. We need to know the context of the artifact—where it was found, for example, and what other items were near it—in order for it all to make sense. If you have discovered something that may be an artifact, the best thing to do is leave it in place.
Am I allowed to use a metal detector on TVA land?
The use of metal detectors on TVA property is prohibited.
If you witness the looting of an archaeological site on TVA land, do not confront the person who is doing it. Please note as many details as possible of the incident (e.g., date, time, location, description of the individual, license plate or boat registration numbers) and report the incident to TVA Security at the following numbers:
- 1-800-824-3861 (toll-free)
- 865-632-4318 (TDD)
- 1-800-548-4005 (toll-free)
- 423-751-2605 (TDD)
See information about laws related to cultural resources.
What should I do if I think I’ve discovered human remains on TVA land?
Please do not remove any remains that you discover on TVA lands. Contact local authorities or TVA Security at one of the numbers listed above so they can begin an investigation.
How do I get information on cemeteries relocated by TVA?
TVA maintains a cemetery relocation database, which includes information on graves that were relocated as part of TVA projects. Read more about the relocation process and the location of existing records.
Is my house (barn, shed, etc.) a historic property? Is it eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places?
For more information on whether your structure may be a historic property, visit the National Register of Historic Places Web site. TVA’s Cultural Resources staff may also be able to answer questions. You may contact them by sending an e-mail.