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26 August 2007
Volunteers help protect prehistoric American mounds

The Missouri Mound Adoption Project (MO-MAP) founded recently in Chesterfield (USA) hopes to use a coalition of volunteers to protect Missouri's remaining prehistoric Native American mounds. "We may not be able to save every one of Missouri's remaining prehistoric Native American mounds, but with volunteers, we can try to save one at a time," said Mark Leach of Chesterfield, a trustee of the Missouri Archaeological Society and a member of the Chesterfield Landmarks Preservation Commission.
     MO-MAP builds on the traditional approach to mound protection -- keeping mound locations confidential, documenting them with state authorities and ensuring protection provided under Missouri's unmarked human burial law, he said. The new group's genesis began with a recent experience involving a group of 11 possible mounds in Chesterfield that were endangered by a proposed road project. "Thick foliage has allowed these mounds to remain virtually undetected by the public, even though they are surrounded by schools and subdivisions," Leach said. "We were pleased to note no fresh signs of looting at any of the mounds," he said. "However, much to our dismay, I also encountered a major Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) project taking place in the area. Unfortunately, a section of one of the mounds had inadvertently been destroyed," he said. Leach said there are simply too many mounds, rock shelters and other sites for professional archaeologists to monitor. "Therefore, one by one, many of these sites are being lost," Leach said.
     MO-MAP has one nonprofessional volunteer watching over one mound, under the guidance of professional archaeologists. "Adopting a mound means that a volunteer holds the view, 'They may loot or bulldoze every other mound in Missouri, but not this mound, not my mound,'" Leach said. Volunteers identify the property owner, educate him/her on Missouri's unmarked burial law and instruct the landowner not to allow anyone, even someone claiming to be an archaeologist, to dig into the mound. They also document the mound's location with the state and contact local government, MoDOT, utilities and other entities that may need to be alerted to the mound's location. And they work with the property owner to prevent looting and possibly to restore existing damage.
     Joe Harl, an archaeologist with the Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis, praised the new group. "This is a great way for the public to help protect our cultural heritage," he said. "Mounds are supposed to be protected by state law, but I don't know of anyone prosecuted for damaging them -- though mounds are destroyed daily by looting and construction," Harl said. "Future generations will be grateful for what volunteers do today."
     There are no dues or regular meetings to be part of MO-MAP. For more information, contact Leach at (314) 313-5715, or visit the Web site.

Source: Suburban Journals (25 August 2007)

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