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A strange flaw in Alabama's archaeological law

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Peter Alaca

Sep 5, 2009, 12:11:30 PM9/5/09

"Law offers less protection for American Indian sites

OXFORD — In Alabama, American Indian burial sites don't have
as much protection as other graves and memorials.

If someone knowingly invades a grave created in the last few
hundred years it's a felony. But it isn't if you destroy a
far older American Indian burial site on your property,
officials with the Alabama Historical Commission say.

There have been at least two attempts to change the law to
include mound structures and remove the distinction but both
have failed, according to archaeologists familiar with the
situation. They say the recent controversy over a stone
mound in Oxford shows why the law needs revision...."

"The current law says any person who desecrates graves and
mutilates corpses is guilty of a Class C felony. But the law
has a different standard for American Indian sites. "Any
person who maliciously desecrates an American Indian place
of burial or funerary objects on property not owned by the
person shall be guilty of a Class C felony and upon
conviction the person shall be punished as provided by law.
That not owned" part of the law gives land-owners in Alabama
ultimate authority over what happens to these sites.."

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