LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Army Corps of Engineers officials are reminding everyone it is against the law to remove artifacts from public lands.
During low lake levels, Corps rangers have noted increased incidents of people digging for artifacts, also known as archaeological resources, along the shoreline and in upland areas. This act is illegal and can be punished by severe fines and/or jail time.
Archaeological resources are material remains of past human life or activities. These resources can include arrowheads, pottery, bottles, beads, rocks utilized as tools, and any other objects made and used by people.
Depending on the circumstances and severity of the thefts, fines can be as high as $250,000 and jail terms can be up to 10 years. Laws covering removing artifacts from public lands include the Archeological 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.
Arkansas Archeological Society officials explain that when individuals pursue what they consider a harmless hobby, digging or picking up artifacts, they are destroying the past and could potentially be disturbing a gravesite. The historic context of an artifact is destroyed when you remove artifacts or relics from archaeological sites for personal collection or to sell. This activity can wipe out hundreds or thousands of years of irreplaceable information.
Many just don’t realize the harm they are doing. Others, unfortunately, care more about profit than preserving the past.
Rangers are asking all lake visitors to help protect and preserve these irreplaceable resources. They urge lake visitors to keep a watchful eye out for artifact hunters and report such illegal activities.
If you see someone illegally digging on the Corps property, please contact the project office nearest to your location. Any information you can provide such as location of the activity, number and description of persons involved, car make or model, etc. can be helpful. However, do not attempt to intervene or approach individuals participating in illegal activities.
Rangers ask that everyone please refrain from destroying our local heritage and history and assist in preserving our natural resources for future generations.
Recreation and project office contact information can be found on the Internet at www.swl.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlerockusace, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/usacelittlerock.