Stolen Artifacts Return to Moundville

Nov 13, 2018

Three recently-recovered ceremonial pots, stolen from Erskine Ramsey Archaeological Repository in Moundville, Ala. in 1980.
Credit Alex AuBuchon / APR

Nearly 40 years after a massive burglary gone cold, there’s now renewed hope in Moundville.

In 1980, well over 250 Native American pottery vessels and countless other artifacts were stolen from what is now the Moundville Archaeological Park. Despite an FBI investigation, none of the artifacts ever resurfaced.

But yesterday, officials with the University of Alabama and the Moundville site announced that three ceremonial pots from among those stolen had been recovered.

Dr. Jim Knight is a Curator Emeritus with UA’s anthropology department. He was happy to talk all about the three pots and the supernatural designs engraved on them, but there was one thing he was more tight-lipped about:

“What we can’t tell you about is the details of the police investigation that led to the police investigation that led to the recovery of these things. This is an ongoing investigation. We can’t tell you who’s involved in it. We can’t tell you whether anybody’s in cuffs – any of that police stuff.”

The recovery was reportedly made possible by an investigation from the University of Alabama Police Department and the Associates for the Return of Moundville Artifacts. That group has offered a reward of $25,000 for information leading to the return of the collection. The reward has not been claimed.

Dr. Bill Bomar is the executive director of the University of Alabama Museums. He says their scientific capabilities have come a long way since the items were stolen.

“Tests to determine the origin of where things came from – if they were traded here. We can test residues found in ceramic vessels. And we haven’t had these artifacts to do these kinds of studies on.”

He says these artifacts and any more that are recovered will greatly increase their knowledge of the Moundville site and the Mississippian natives.

A missing artifacts website showing pictures of the artifacts known to be stolen can be found here.

A confidential tip line has been established at 205-348-2800.

For more information about the Moundville Archaeological Park, head to moundville.ua.edu