The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reminding everyone it’s against the law to remove artifacts from public lands

Little Rock District
Published Nov. 2, 2020
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Cultural resources are physical remains of our shared past. Also known as artifacts, the remains include arrowheads, pottery, buildings, structural remains, rock art, ceramics, glassware, and any other objects made and used by humans.

USACE park rangers notice more incidents of illegal digging for artifacts when lake levels are lower. Be advised that harvesting cultural resources is illegal at any time and can be punished by severe fines or jail time.   

Depending on the circumstances and severity of the thefts, fines can run as high as $250,000 and prison terms can be up to 10 years. Laws covering removing artifacts from public lands include the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, which protects any item of archeological interest that is more than 100 years old, and Title 36 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which deals with theft or destruction of public property. Minor offenses can lead to misdemeanor charges, while more serious offenses or second offenses can lead to felony charges and convictions.

“When individuals pursue what they consider harmless hobby digging or picking up artifacts, they are destroying the past,” said Little Rock District Archaeologist, Allen Wilson. “The historical context is destroyed when artifacts or relics are removed for personal collections and profit. This can wipe out the evidence of centuries of human experience.”

USACE park rangers encourage all lake visitors to help protect our cultural remains. They urge lake visitors to keep a watchful eye out for artifact seekers and report such illegal activities.   

If you see someone illegally digging on any public property, please contact your local law enforcement agency and report the crime.

“Any information you can provide such as location of the activity, number and description of people involved, car make or model, etc. can be helpful,” Wilson said. “However, please don’t put yourself in harm’s way by attempting to intervene or approach individuals participating in illegal activities.”

USACE is asking everyone to play their part in preserving our natural resources for future generations.

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CESWL-Public Affairs

Release no. 20-137