NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the May flood caused the Cumberland River to crest at more than 51 feet, Native American gravesites became the target of looters.
A huge portion of the riverbanks eroded and washed away, leaving gravesites exposed and vulnerable.
“Enough bank line went away that 6,000 years of archeology disappeared over a weekend,” said Prehistoric Archeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf.
Archeologists are outraged that looters have targeted such an important piece of history.
“When we first came out there at the end of May, when the waters went down, we found the remains themselves had been dug out of these graves where people were just tossing them out on the bank line in their search for artifacts,” Deter-Wolf told News 2.
Many artifacts that Native Americans were once buried with can be sold in the black market, online, or through antique stores, items such as arrowheads, tools, and ceramic vessels.
“It's also incredibly disrespectful. I mean they are digging up peoples' ancestors,” Deter-Wolf said.
Deter-Wolf and his colleges were awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to determine how much history was lost, as well as find a way to prevent looters from continuing their illegal efforts in stealing from the graves.
Metro police said that if you see any looters or suspicious activity along the riverbanks, you should give them a call at 615-862-8600.