The looting of artifacts from the bottom of Vernon Lake has drastically decreased. Meanwhile, the scientific documentation of significant archaeological sites has increased.

Johnny Guy, President of the West Louisiana Archaeological Club (WLAC) of Leesville, thinks this change has occurred due to heightened public awareness of the law and the importance of preserving archaeological sites.    

The state of Louisiana has given WLAC an exclusive permit allowing them to collect a few artifacts found on the surface of the lake bottom.

They are not digging or disturbing the sites. The purpose of collecting these surface items is for the sake of study.

Due to the fact that the bottom of the lake is state land, it is illegal to collect artifacts without this special permission. The law states, “No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise any archaeological resource located on state lands unless such activity is approved by the agency with ownership responsibilities.”

Scotty Delaney, Senior Agent with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says there is an important reliance on the public “to know they can’t dig or move artifacts from the property.”

Thus far WLAC, along with a handful of volunteers from around Vernon and Beauregard Parish, have documented up to 53 new sites on the bottom of Vernon Lake.

A site is defined as an area where a minimum of five artifacts or diagnostic objects  (i.e., pottery, arrowheads, or a plate) are found.

A historic object must be at least 50 years old to be defined as such. Prehistory denotes a period prior to the existence of written records. “In North America there were no written records until 1492 when the Spanish arrived,” Guy said. This would categorize everything prior to 1492 as prehistoric in this region of the world. Places like the Middle East, however, have written records which date back further than this.

Many residents who live next to the lake have supported WLAC by allowing them to park on their property. “I appreciate everybody that’s helping – giving us access to the lake is the biggest thing,” Guy said. “I don’t want to walk across their property to get to the lake without their permission.”