TVA is asking residents to not disturb protected archaeological sites. (Photo: Contributed)

TVA is asking that people do not disturb archaeological sites on TVA-protected land and to report any suspicious activity that they see.

TVA’s natural resources employees are seeing an uptick in activity by artifact hunters and others who disturb protected archaeological sites on TVA-managed lands, according to a news release. 

Recently, people illegally gained access to a protected cave when looters damaged a gate across the entrance and disturbed items found inside.

“When people dig or remove artifacts from TVA lands, they’re destroying archaeological sites,” TVA archaeologist Erin Pritchard said in a prepared statement. “You’re destroying the context associated with that artifact, because to study human behavior, you need to understand the relationship of that artifact with those that are found around it.”

Archaeological sites on TVA-managed lands are protected under federal law, according to the news release.

To help combat illegal activity, staff created the Thousand Eyes Program, a volunteer program to teach citizens to monitor sites-to be “extra eyes” to help protect these valuable sites.

“TVA works with federally recognized Indian tribes to protect archaeological sites found on public land,” Pritchard said. “They feel very strongly about the removal of their ancestors’ remains, and TVA takes the protection of these resources very seriously.”

However, employees and volunteers can’t be everywhere at once, and one of the biggest ongoing challenges faced by TVA is trying to prevent people from taking these items, according to the news release. In addition, going into caves and other unfamiliar areas can be dangerous, both to looters and to those who must investigate.

“These resources belong to all of us, and we want them to be around for future generations to appreciate and study,” Pritchard said in a prepared statement.

TVA asks that anyone who sees evidence of suspicious activity contact TVA police at 855-476-2489.

For more information about the Thousand Eyes Program, click here.