Cold Case: Stolen Artifacts from Wickliffe Mounds

There has been a lot of news this summer about the theft of artifacts.

Some of these cases are very recent, like the arrest of a local Kentuckian for removing and selling artifacts from Native American graves. Others go back to the 1980s, a pre-social media era when spreading word of stolen objects was a harder task. The reemerging publicity of Alabama’s largest recorded antiquities theft in the South from Moundville and an increased reward for information leading to the return of these artifacts being a prime example.

The 1980s were a time for some big cases of theft and looting in Kentucky too. Just a little over a year after the atrocities of Slack Farm were discovered in 1987, another theft of artifacts occurred in Kentucky. Just like the almost 40-year mystery of the stolen Moundville artifacts, our own Wickliffe Mounds experienced a tragic burglary 30 years ago.

As Park Manager, Carla Hildebrand writes:

In December, 1988, a staff person checking on the site during Christmas break, discovered a burglary in the Cemetery Exhibit Building at the Wickliffe Mounds archaeological site in Ballard County, Kentucky.  After an inspection by the Director, Dr. Kit Wesler, and the Kentucky State Police, it was determined that 18 pottery artifacts were stolen.  Of the 18 pots, we had photos of 13 of them (see flyer).  All 18 pots had a catalog number engraved upon them (see list on flyer).  Over the years, many leads have been followed, but nothing has turned up as credible.  No one knows to this day, who perpetrated the crime or where the artifacts are located now.

Stolen Pottery Alert Wickliffe Mounds

The ceramics stolen from Wickliffe Mounds belong to the Mississippian culture. Other nearby Mississippian sites include Cahokia and Kincaid Mounds in Illinois, and Angel Mounds in Indiana.

While Wickliffe does not have funds like those raised for Moundville, we all hope to see these artifacts returned to Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site one day.

For more information, please contact the park manager at 270-335-3681.


Carla Hildebrand, Park Manager

Kentucky Department of PARKS

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site


Karen Stevens

University of Kentucky

Department of Anthropology

PhD Candidate