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Protecting Archaeological Sites

Can I collect artifacts from TVA property?

photo of archaeolgy site
Archaeologists map features during excavations that took place before Tellico Dam was completed in 1979.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) makes it illegal to excavate archaeological sites on federal property, which includes TVA land, without a research permit. Although there are no penalties under this act for removing arrowheads that you find on the ground, these artifacts are still considered federal property and you can be charged with Theft of Government Property if found to be in possession of artifacts taken from TVA property. It’s important to understand that artifacts by themselves do not tell us anything about people of the past. We need to know the context of the artifact—where it was found and what other items were near it—in order for it all to make sense. If you have discovered something that may be an artifact, the best thing to do is leave it in place.

Archaeological site destruction

Many archaeological sites get looted every day. Looting means that someone illegally digs into an archaeological site. This activity is very destructive and keeps us from learning about our past.

You can help!

photo of archaeolgy site
Archaeologists study the foundations of a stone house on Tellico Reservoir in east Tennessee.

Share what you learn about archaeology with your family and friends. By doing so you may prevent destruction of an archaeological site. Many people who disturb archaeological sites do not understand the results of their actions.

If you see illegal activity, contact the TVA police at 855-476-2489. Never confront anyone you suspect of disturbing an archaeological site. That could be dangerous!

More information

To learn more about TVA archaeology, visit TVA’s Cultural Resources Web site or e-mail us at