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 as much about people of the past. We need to know the context of the artifact—where it was found 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.
Many archaeological sites get looted every day. Looting means that someone illegally digs into or removes artifacts from an archaeological site. This activity is very destructive and keeps us from learning about our past.
TVA works with 21 federally recognized Native American tribes that have a cultural and historical interest in the Tennessee Valley. If a project could impact a Native American cultural site, TVA is bound by law to consult with these tribes. You can read more about those laws here.
TVA has an important responsibility to manage and protect Native American artifacts, human remains and traditional cultural places. Read more about the work we do with these 21 tribes.
Share what you learn about archaeology with your family and friends. By doing so you may prevent the destruction of an archaeological site. Many people who disturb archaeological sites do not understand the results of their actions.
If you see illegal activity, contact the TVA police at 855-476-2489. Never confront anyone you suspect of disturbing an archaeological site. That could be dangerous!