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Park rangers investigating suspicious holes found at historic Pinckney site

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:32 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:14 PM EST
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - National Park Rangers are investigating whether someone used a metal detector to steal items from the grounds of the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant.

Chief Park Ranger Tim Sveum is leading the investigation. He says they discovered 19 holes had been dug and items discarded near the holes.

“Eight of those holes did not have artifacts, which suggests that at least eight artifacts had been taken,” Sveum said.

He says this leads them to believe someone with a metal detector was combing the historic site for valuables sometime around Nov. 13.

The site is mostly green space with a small home and museum associated with Charles Pinckney, a prominent author and signer of the United States Constitution. While some archeological work has been done at the site, the area has not been fully surveyed.

“To do an actual archaeological dig, there’s a large monetary amount that needs to be put forward,” Sveum said. “Because of the large monetary cost, we reserve digs for areas that have higher archaeological significance.”

Sveum says they may not know exactly what was taken but they are confident a metal detector was used, which is illegal in national parks.

“Depending on what the monetary value is, it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony violation of the Archeological Resource Protection Act,” Sveum said, noting that just having an assembled metal detector on park land is a misdemeanor offense.

The thought of losing any piece of history is a violation to Brian Turner with the Preservation Society of Charleston. He says it’s important to leave items where they are so archeologists and historians can properly contextualize them.

“This record of history that is below the ground at this site is gone forever unless this person is caught,” Turner said. “Regardless, whatever they took out of the ground has been taken out of its context and real archeology can never happen at this site without a true record of what was there.”

There is a thriving metal detector community in the Lowcountry and Turner says this incident isn’t reflective of the majority of those hobbyists.

“There are good detectors out there who obey the rules and that’s really important to recognize,” Turner said. “We urge everybody in the detectors community to do their part to educate the community about why this is important, and I think there are a lot of great ambassadors out there and we would really elevate the work they are doing.”

The National Parks Service is officering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Anyone with information can call or text the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009, send tips online at go.nps.gov/SubmitATip or email nps_isb@nps.gov.

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