Tennessee Department of Transportation :: Archaeological Organizations :: Tennessee Archaeology Network

Tennessee Archaeology Network

The Central Information Source
for Tennessee Archaeology

Big South Fork NRRA

BISO-MTSU Cooperative Cliffline Archaeological Survey Project

National Park Service



The National Park Service was established by the United States Congress through the 1916 "Organic Act". This "Act" defines the Mission of the National Park Service to "...Preserve and protect (natural and cultural resources) by such manner and such means as to leave them unimpaired for now and future generations". Over 368 National Areas have been added to the National Park Service over the past 80 years.

Statutory Authority

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee/Kentucky, was established by an act of Congress on March 7, 1974 through the Water Resources Development Act, PL 93-251. This Act specifically states that the National Area will be created for the "...purposes of conserving and interpreting..." the cultural and natural resources including archeological and historical resources. Archeological resources are mentioned two times in this legislation underscoring the significant nature of these resources here.

Other Statutory Authority that provides protection for the cultural resources on the National Area are: the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended; the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1977 as amended, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1991 as amended.

Key activities

Site Inventory

Archeological Site Inventory projects have been ongoing for the past 20 years. Approximately two dozen site inventory reports have been produced but only about 20% of the estimated 5000 archeological sites at Big South Fork have been located and investigated.

Site Protection

The most critical concern facing the National Park Service at Big South Fork is combating the ever present looting of the conspicuous rockshelter sites by relic hunters. A successful archeological sites Monitoring Program was conducted at Big South Fork from 1986-1989 and an ARPA conviction was made in 1988. Another ARPA case was prosecuted in 1998. The NPS has also assisted other Federal Agencies in making two other ARPA cases on nearby US Forest Service lands.


Several efforts to inform the public about the cultural resources of the National Area have been undertaken by the NPS Interpretation staff over the past decade. A Summer Public Archeology Program has been developed; an on-area "Dig Box" exercise for young children has been developed; two Cultural Heritage Days festivals have been established; a self guided "Cultural Resources Loop Trail" has been built, and Interpretive slide programs have been presented to many school groups, civic organizations, and visitors.

Archeological Research

Archeological research efforts have been undertaken in concert with several of the Inventory Surveys. Also, several prehistoric archeological and historic research projects have been undertaken and published for this area and for the cultural resources surrounding the National Area.

Curation of Artifacts

The Big South Fork has established a curation facility for materials collected during most of the archeological research and compliance projects here and several collections of donated artifacts. An extensive collection of historic mining era related artifacts are also curated at this facility. Additionally, we curate documentation and photographs related to the local area and culture.

Ethnographic Research/Oral Histories

Over the last six years the NPS at Big South Fork has had a very active oral history program. We have collected much information relative to the folk history of the National Area and have produced two volumes of collected, transcribed interviews.

For further information please contact:
Tom Des Jean, Cultural Resource Specialist or Ms. Myra Marcum, Oral History Coordinator at Big South Fork NRRA.
Send EMAIL to Tom Des Jean at Big South Fork.

Information on this page was provided by Mr. Tom Des Jean, Cultural Resource Specialist, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Tom Des Jean. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Park Headquarters, 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, TN 37841. Telephone: (423) 569-2404.

Current Position:

  • Cultural Resources Specialist
    • Historic Structures Preservation
    • Curation
    • Archeology
    • Oral History
    • Compliance
  • Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, Roane State Community College
  • BA Anthropology/Ecology, University of Florida - Gainesville
  • MA Anthropology, University of Florida - Gainesville
Areas of Interest:
  • Paleoindian Period
  • Southeastern Archeology, Upper Cumberland Plateau
  • Prehistoric Settlement Patterning
  • Prehistoric Environment
Email: tom_des_Jean@nps.gov

The webmaster reserves the right to make changes without notice or obligation. The information contained herein is provided as a public service with the understanding that we make no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information.