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Look but Don’t Touch Artifacts on TVA Public Lands

Three years of record rainfall have caused extensive erosion and flooding along the Tennessee River banks and public lands. TVA reminds public lands users to leave artifacts that may have been washed up to the surface right where they are.

September 1, 2020 — “We see an increase of artifacts being exposed on TVA public lands after heavy rains,” said TVA archaeologist Erin Dunsmore. “Unfortunately, we also see an increase of people being tempted to pick up arrowheads or other important cultural items that they find on the ground.”

soil erosion

Dunsmore warns those artifacts found on TVA public lands are considered federal property and 
it is against the law to remove them. In addition, the use of metal detectors on TVA public lands is strictly prohibited.

Dunsmore recommends that if you discover something that may be an artifact, the best thing to do is leave it in place and contact TVA via email at [email protected]. “Use your smartphone to note its GPS location and take a photo. This helps us understand the context of the artifact in order for it all to make sense.”

TVA manages over 11,500 archaeological sites and numerous historic structures, which include many TVA dams and powerhouses. It is difficult for TVA staff to know about all the damage that may occur from looting or vandalism. In order to address the problem, TVA has developed a volunteer project called A Thousand Eyes, where the public is asked to help protect cultural resources on TVA public lands. 

Dunsmore reminds everyone that if you witness the looting of an archaeological site on TVA lands, or see someone using a metal detector, call the TVA Police toll-free at (855) 476-2489.

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