1,000-year-old Indian mounds being looted and damaged | Crime
They have withstood a thousand years of the four seasons – but they can’t stand up to four wheeling or looting.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Massac County Sheriff’s Department are seeking those responsible for the recent looting and all-terrain vehicle damage at Kincaid Mounds, a series of prehistoric Native American burial mounds in rural Massac and Pope counties.
“The criminal disturbance of these human burials in Kincaid Mounds is unconscionable,” said Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) Director Amy Martin. “We hope to apprehend those who are responsible, which will serve as a deterrent to others who may be considering the desecration of our state’s heritage.”
Several small holes were recently dug in one of the burial mounds by one or more people who were likely searching for what are known as grave goods, or items that Native Americans buried with their dead. Authorities are uncertain if any artifacts or human remains were removed. A similar looting incident took place at Kincaid Mounds in 2008. In addition, there is evidence that someone drove a four-wheeler or truck recently on one of the mounds. The site was posted with No Trespassing signs at the time the incidents occurred. All-terrain vehicles are prohibited from using any part of the Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site.
Since the crimes involved a prehistoric mound on state-owned property, two state laws apply: The Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act (20 ILCS 3440) and the Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act (20 ILCS 3435). Violation of either of these laws is a Class A Misdemeanor and the penalties could include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail, plus forfeiture of all equipment, including vehicles, used in the crime, and payment for all costs to restore damages. A Class 4 Felony can also occur where a burial is disturbed on public property, as in this case; a Class 4 Felony can result in fines up to $25,000 and incarceration for 1-3 years.
Those with information on the Kincaid Mounds looting or four wheeler damage are urged to call the Massac County Sheriff’s Department at (618) 524-2912 or the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency at (217) 558-8973. Sheriff’s deputies are now patrolling the area more frequently.
Kincaid Mounds is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark archaeological site. Kincaid Mounds is important because it was one of two major political centers of the Mississippian period (ca. AD 1000-1450) in the lower Ohio River Valley. It was also the earliest area in southern Illinois to develop intensive, large scale agriculture. Kincaid Mounds is split by the Massac-Pope county line and consists of nine mounds, including burial mounds and large platform mounds, and portions of a village site. This region in southern Illinois has a long history of occupation ranging from the Late Archaic through the Mississippian periods (ca. 2000 BC to AD 1450).
Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site is owned by the IHPA and managed by the Kincaid Mounds Support Organization, a local non-profit group.
“Area law enforcement agencies will be called in to arrest and prosecute any ATV driver found on Kincaid Mounds property, or anyone doing unauthorized digging at the site,” said Martin. “These mounds are a unique, irreplaceable part of our heritage, and to destroy them for the sake of amusement or profit is a despicable act.”
Southern Illinois University has started an archeology field school at Kincaid Mounds, and supervised students will be excavating there for the next eight weeks. This activity is unrelated to the recent looting and ATV damage.