June 8 marks the 113th anniversary of the Antiquities Act. This landmark law was the first federal law recognizing that archaeological sites on federal land are important public resources. It obligated federal agencies to preserve the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of archaeological and historic sites. It also authorized the President to protect places of historic and scientific interest by designating them National Monuments.

The Antiquities Act grew out of concerns that developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century for the preservation of America’s heritage and the important information they contained. Scientists in the budding discipline of archaeology joined together in a movement with other conservationists to protect sites on federal land endangered by unauthorized digging and purposeful, commercial artifact looting.

After a generation-long effort, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law establishing legal protection for cultural and natural resources on federal land. The Act set important precedents, including the assertion of a broad public interest in archaeology on federal land, as well as support for the care and management of archaeological sites, collections, and information. The act linked the protection of sites and their appropriate, scientific excavation with public programs to care for and provide public interpretation of artifact collections and information from the study of a site and its contents.

To honor this effort and to recognize the winning 2018 Ohio History Day paper titled “Protecting the Past: The Fight to Save America’s Archaeological Resources”, which discusses the origins of the Antiquities Act, written by Grant Bruner, a senior at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, with Grant’s permission we are delighted to share his paper with you. Grant’s paper also received the Native American History award at the National History Day competition. 

Although for 113 years the Antiquities Act has protected hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites on federal land, its integrity is threatened by recent Presidential actions. Please consider supporting the preservation of our archaeological heritage by asking your representatives in Congress to support bills protecting archaeological resources on federal land, such as H.R. 1050. This bill would declare Congressional support for the 52 national monuments established by presidents of both parties between January 1996 and October 2018, reaffirm existing law stating that presidential designations of national monuments cannot be reduced except by an act of Congress, and require that new National Monuments be surveyed and mapped and that management plans be put in place within in two years of designation.

To read Grant Bruner's paper Click Here