Sharing Secrets of the Past

From rock art to historic buildings and burial sites, the Tennessee Valley is full of reminders that it has been a great place to live for thousands of years. Protecting and maintaining these cultural resources is one of the many things TVA does that sets it apart from other utilities.

TVA works with other federal and state agencies, federally recognized tribes, and the public to protect these important sites and educate people about their significance. TVA’s cultural resources staff recently invited 370 middle school students to visit an archaeological site in Pennington Gap, Virginia. While visiting the site, the students had a quick lesson in archaeology, learning such terms as stratigraphy, magnetometry, and ground penetrating radar. The students also had an opportunity to learn about tribal culture from Ernestine Berry, tribal historian of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.

students listening under tent

Berry spoke to the students about the cultural significance of sites like this and how important they are to her people. “The people in my tribe have very little cultural artifacts from our ancestors because most were left behind during the migration west. It is important for us to see what our ancestors had and to share that with the young people in our tribe.”

So far, archaeologists have uncovered two stone hearths containing seeds and animal bones which will help them accurately date the findings. TVA archaeologist Marianne Shuler estimates some of the material found at this site could be from as early as 8000 B.C.

Once the archaeologists finish mapping the site and documenting the artifacts, they will return the site to its original condition. But, for those lucky enough to have experienced the work in progress, they learned that the people who lived their lives on this site in the past still have stories to tell.

workers in mud

Our archaeologists remind people that the Archaeological Resource Protection Act makes it illegal to vandalize, or damage archaeological and historic resources on federal land. This includes disturbing or removing any cultural items on TVA public lands.

Any type of vandalism or theft of these types of resources should be immediately reported to local law enforcement.