Some Calling for More Protection of Kentucky Archaeological Sites

Can parts of American history disappear? That’s what some say happens when Native American archaeological sites are dug up and looted. A famous case: the Slack Farm incident in 1987 in Union County, where one site was looted.

“These tools are so beatiful,” says Greg Embry of Daviess County. He says he’s an “arrow hunter”. He’s looked for arrowheads for nearly 15 years.

“This could be a copper tomahawk,” he says.  He says he finds small items, like arrowheads, in plain sight on fields. But a recent discovery of a Native American site he says was dug up had him hunting for answers.

“When it comes to robbing people’s graves over beautiful stones, it’s a little too far,” he says.

State archaeological officials say the western Kentucky site may have been first looted several decades ago. The most common reason it’s done: to sell artifacts for thousands of dollars.  But archaeologists say looting of these sites isn’t as common as before.

“I think there’s a lot more sensitivity in that region about the issue, especially after the Slack Farm incident in the eighties that made people realize it’s something they shouldn’t be doing,” says David Pollack of the Kentucky Archaeological Society.

Kentucky law makes it a felony to destroy or sell artifacts taken from heritage sites. But some say more needs to be done to protect history.

“You can bring a natural area back, you can bring an endangered species from the brink of extinction back. Archaeological sites are not renewable,” Pollack says. “Once you destroy a site, it’s gone forever.”

Archaeologists say they’d like to see a law similar to one in Indiana passed where anyone would need a permit to excavate any site.

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