TVA wants visitors to know it’s illegal to remove artifacts and damage historic sites on TVA property

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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. --  There are many historic sites on the Tennessee Valley Authority's property and TVA officials say there are issues with people damaging or taking things from those places, and that's against the law.

"We have over 11,500 archeological sites on TVA property," said TVA Senior Archaeological Specialist Erin Pritchard.

One of the more significant sites is in Marshall County, on the Tennessee River. "Painted Bluff has a number, probably over 100 rock art images," Pritchard explained, "The Native American stuff we think probably dates to at least 600 years old or older. Some of these images probably date to before that time."

The large bluff juts out of the Tennessee River, down from the Guntersville Dam. A short hike takes a visitor to a ledge where bright crimson images from another era are visible. There are also signatures dating back generations, some from the 1800s.

It's a special place, but Pritchard knows first hand not everyone views it that way. She and other crews spent countless hours chipping away at graffiti, painstakingly preserving the art underneath,  trying to repair damage.

Pritchard pointed to an image of a hummingbird. "Part of Sonia's name was right around it," she said, talking about graffiti. They were able to remove that name from the bluff.  Some images can't be recovered, though. TVA works with local communities to raise awareness and help protect the sites.

"It is illegal to come on to TVA property and remove artifacts and damage them, but unfortunately we continue to have a problem with people doing that on our property," Pritchard said.

TVA property is federal property and there are many laws that protect archaeological sites there.
"We do work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute those people for doing those types of damage to archaeological sites," Pritchard added.

She said TVA wants people to enjoy the properties, but do it with respect, and leave it as it is. If you see anything suspicious, call TVA Police.