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Looting may make artifacts history

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  • Djehuti Sundaka
    http://www.timesdaily.com/news/stories/12622newsstories.html Looting may make artifacts history By Robert Palmer Staff Writer January 3, 2002 A new excavation
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7, 2002
      http://www.timesdaily.com/news/stories/12622newsstories.html
      Looting may make artifacts history

      By Robert Palmer
      Staff Writer
      January 3, 2002



      A new excavation near the historic Lawrence County home of Gen. Joe
      Wheeler might have unearthed important Antebellum artifacts, but state
      officials don't expect to see them.

      State archaeologist Tom Maher said someone has looted a site just
      outside the 50-acre Pond Spring Plantation site, which is owned by the
      Alabama Historical Commission.

      The looted site is believed to have been the slave quarters of the old
      plantation, he said.

      Since the looting was discovered in mid-December, around-the-clock
      security has been hired to protect the site, Maher said. The security
      began operations Dec. 23.

      "We found that someone had gotten there before us and heavily looted
      it," he said.

      All that remains of the slave quarters is remnants of foundations,
      including what may have been the overseer's house, he said. Someone
      entered the remote property last month using a metal detector and
      shovels to dig in and around the foundations.

      Maher said items commonly found at similar sites include pottery and
      metal and glass objects. Some have significant value. He said it has not
      been determined what might have been taken.

      If caught, the looters will be charged with trespassing and for
      violating the federal Antiquities Act, which prohibits the transport and
      sale of illegally obtained artifacts across state lines, Maher said.

      Lawrence County Sheriff Grady Rose said a report has not been filed with
      his department.

      The state does not own the site that was looted, but archaeologists are
      working with the landowner to survey the property, Maher said. The
      family who owns the site deeded the Wheeler plantation to the historical
      commission.

      "It's really sad. They are stealing from the poorest people," he said.
      "These slave artifacts are usually a small thing because they did not
      have a lot of material possessions, and they were usually made of wood
      or leather, which are things that degrade quickly after they have been
      in the ground for a while.

      "We need an intensive survey of that area to see what is left."

      The historical commission has hired a team of archaeologists to complete
      an exhaustive survey of the property and buildings, which will be
      restored.

      Special attention is being given to the lives of the slaves who built
      the plantation, said Melissa Beasley, Pond Spring site director.

      The plantation includes an 1820 dogtrot log house, an 1830 federal-style
      house and the 1870 Victorian-style Wheeler house. There also are seven
      outbuildings that will be restored.

      The plantation and main house had been open to the public for years as a
      private museum. The state acquired the property in 1997 and closed the
      buildings because of their poor condition. They will be reopened as they
      are restored, Beasley said.

      Wheeler was a noted Confederate cavalry commander during the Civil War,
      served in Congress after Reconstruction and commended U.S. cavalry
      during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

      Robert Palmer can be reached at robert.palmer@... or
      740-5734.
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