An Unsolved Mystery Resurfaces Nearly 40 Years Later

  • June 27th, 2018
Some 264 artifacts were stolen from Moundville Archaeological Park in 1980, and a $15,000 reward is now available for information leading to their return.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Artifacts that were stolen nearly 40 years ago from The University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park may soon be recovered with the help of a cash reward and the advent of technology.

The burglary, which occurred in 1980, is one of the largest recorded antiquities thefts in the Eastern United States. Some 264 prehistoric Native American pottery vessels and other artifacts were stolen. The missing artifacts were appraised at $1 million at the time, which would be approximately $3 million today.

Although the FBI investigated the burglary nearly 40 years ago, the artifacts were never found, and the case went cold.

But a recent collaboration between the Associates for the Return of Moundville Artifacts and The University of Alabama Police Department has renewed hope that the artifacts will be found. The private group is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the return of the artifacts.

“The reward, together with advancements in technology that allow for the rapid dissemination of information by news outlets and social media, offer new hope in an effort to recover the artifacts,” said Dr. Jim Knight, UA professor emeritus of anthropology.

“The magnitude of the theft has left an alarming gap in Alabama’s Native American heritage,” Knight said. “These pots were one-fifth of the entire Moundville vessel collection curated by the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

“With the availability of the internet, it is now possible to distribute these photographs much more widely than was previously feasible. Also, Native American pottery vessels are now routinely sold in internet auctions. These can be monitored by a public aware of this 40-year-old crime and the great need to reunite these rare artifacts with the citizens of Alabama and the South.”

A tip line for leaving confidential messages has been set up at the Alabama Museum of Natural History. You can leave a tip by phoning 205-348-2800.

For more information, including photographs of the artifacts, visit


Dr. Jim Knight, 205-765-2218


Stephanie Kirkland, College of Arts and Sciences, 205-348-8663

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.