Arkansas Post National Memorial

Arkansas Post National Memorial

Artifacts meant to stay on national, state lands

July 27, 2009, 7:48 am

National Park Service officials hope the recent conviction of a Russellville couple for violating a federal law will serve as a lesson to those who traipse across public land seeking a piece of history to take home.

The Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 prohibits digging up, destroying, disturbing or collecting arrowheads, pottery or other ancient artifacts found on federal land.

"There's a huge concern that the public doesn't know what's allowed," said Caven Clark, a National Park Service archaeologist at the Buffalo National River. "We want them to know so we can focus on the industrial-strength bad guys who don't give a hoot whose property they are looting on."

Tinkering with artifacts on federal land can result in felony charges. In Arkansas, protected sites include Pea Ridge National Military Park in Benton County, Arkansas Post National Memorial near Gillett, U.S. Forest Service land and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property.

A similar Arkansas law makes it a crime to pluck pieces of history from state property, but the most serious archaeological crimes in Arkansas have occurred on federal land, where hundreds of archaeological sites are spread over thousands of acres.

"On a Civil War battlefield, taking stuff cheats future visitors out of the information that that relic holds," said John Scott, the Pea Ridge battlefield superintendent. "What's more important than the relic is the context of where it's found."