Missing From the Museum-The Moundville Artifacts

By Carla Charter

MOUNDVILLE, AL.- A new $15,000 reward has been announced for the return of the Moundville Artifacts which were stolen in 1980.   Stolen items include pottery vessels made out of local clay as well as ornaments and jewelry. Many of the vessels have very distinctive designs of spirit gods of the Moundville people. “There is a dragon-like creature a rattlesnake with bird wings and deer antlers, according to Vernon James Knight, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, at the University of Alabama

The vessels, estimated to be around 800 years old, were excavated in the 1930’s from the Moundville archeological site when it was being converted to a state park.  “There are flat topped mounds arranged around an open plaza in between. The site was abandoned it is believed shortly before European contact, “Knight continued.

The items were stored at the Erskine Ramsey Archeological Repository, a building which houses items not currently on display. “A young woman was working on a dissertation on certain aspects of the pottery vessels and she noticed boxes missing. Whoever took them was definitely coming back for more.  The boxes were taken off shelf and lined against a wall.” The artifacts were appraised at one million dollars at the time and are estimated to be worth two or three times that now.

“The real value of the objects are the art and scientific value,” Knight said.   “The items are important for many reasons.  They are art objects that need to be seen and they are a big part of the heritage of our area. They have historical value and it is important for them to be available for students and professionals so they can learn about the culture.

As to who stole the items he said different people have different ideas better leads. He said it may have been an inside job. “They had a key and there were no signs of a break in. They may have stolen the items to resell them but I don’t think they have been resold. None have shown up on the market so I believe the collection is intact.”

Many of the missing artifacts can be seen at https://museums.ua.edu/oas/stolenartifacts/

Anyone with information on the missing artifacts can call a confidential tip line that has been set up at 205-348-2800.