Explore additional content related to Preservation Archaeology’s Role in Responding to Archaeological Resource Crimes, the February 2, 2021, Archaeology Café Online presentation with Stacy Ryan and D. J. “Dusty” Whiting.
Extended Q&A with Stacy Ryan and D. J. “Dusty” Whiting
Q. Shall I report vandalism at a site I haven’t seen for 20 years, or are you looking for more recent incidents?
A. We generally prioritize incidents that have occurred in the past few years unless we are asked to assist in remediating the damage. If you encounter evidence of looting and vandalism that you know for certain is old, please contact the land manager or land owner to make sure they are aware of the problem. They can take the necessary steps to mitigate the damage or protect the area.
Q. Observing an archaeological site on city land with petroglyphs 3,000 to 7,000 years old. How to get better protection from graffiti and people climbing on the rocks?
A. Advisory signs informing people of the cultural significance of the site and the federal laws that protect those places would be a good first step.
Q. Quite some time ago (45 years or so) I was visiting a site I worked on in the El Morro Valley in New Mexico with a friend who was going to be working on lithics from the site. We came across 5 people with 2 pick-up trucks digging in the midden of the site… This was on private land and it was pre-ARPA. I have often wondered if there was anything I could have done about this.
A. Please do not confront looters in the act even if on public lands. It is best to relocate to a secure place, take notes on what you saw, and call local authorities. If the incident is on private land, the owners can be notified that people are digging on their land. And it is illegal to disturb burials on private lands.
Q. Are there many issues with tribal members themselves committing ARPA crimes, and if so do the offenders tend to be protected by other tribal members who choose to look the other way?
A. Although looting by Tribal members is judged to be low, Tribal leaders have voiced that those individuals should also be prosecuted. That activity would have been forbidden by their elders, and it can cause harm to the family or even the whole community.
Q. Don’t laws involving human remains apply even on private property?
A. Yes, they do. It is illegal to disturb human remains or burials on private property. These protections are usually found in local or state laws. In Arizona, for example, A.R.S. § 41-865 prohibits intentional disturbance of human remains or funerary items without prior permission from the director of the Arizona State Museum.
Q. What is the difference between ARPA and NAGPRA?
A. This was answered live, but we’d like to provide more information. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) do overlap in that they both provide protection for Native American burials and cultural items. But there are some key differences in what these Acts address and seek to accomplish:
ARPA prohibits excavation, removal, damage, or alteration of archaeological resources on Tribal or federal lands without a permit. Archaeological resources are defined as “any material remain of past human life or activities which are of archaeological interest… [and] at least 100 years of age” (USC 470bb(1); 43 CFR 7.3[a]). This includes human remains and burials (but we should not refer to human remains as an archaeological resource).
NAGPRA addresses the return of Native American human remains, funerary items, sacred items, and items of cultural patrimony to their culturally affiliated Tribe. This applies to newly discovered burials and to the holdings of museums and organizations that receive federal funding. NAGPRA overlaps with ARPA in that it prohibits trafficking of Native American human remains regardless of age, as well as illegally obtained funerary items, sacred items, and items of cultural patrimony.
Q. Have you contacted the mining companies in an effort to educate them in the importance of preserving arch sites?
A. While our ARPA Assistance work does not do outreach with individual mining companies, Archaeology Southwest does actively participate in federal and state processes to assure that all cultural resources, including places of traditional religious and cultural importance, as well as archaeological sites, are given the respectful consideration and treatment they deserve.
Read Archaeology Southwest Magazine (Vol. 15, No. 3), “Threats to the Past,” available as a free PDF download, here.
- What is Preservation Archaeology? Vol. 25, No. 4 and Vol. 26, No. 1 (Fall 2011/Winter 2012)
- Preserving Archaeological Landscapes. Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer 2005)
- Article: The Theft of the Gods
- Blog Post: The Archaeology of Looting
- Blog Post: How You Can Help Protect Heritage Sites
- Blog Post: Indiana O’Brien and the Raiders of the Maze
- Blog Post: Connections to Place: An Interview with Todd Scissons
Free PDF downloads:
Bowman Balestrieri, Blythe Alison (2018)
Field Archaeologists as Eyewitnesses to Site Looting. Arts 7(3), 48
Dore, Christopher (2010)
Digging In: An In-depth Look at the Archaeological Resources Protection Act: The Archaeological Perspective. In Proceedings of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Fifty-Sixth Annual Institute, pp. 14B-1 – 14B-20. Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. Westminster, Colorado.
McManamon, Francis P. (2000)
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA). Reproduced from Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia, edited by Linda Ellis, Garland Publishing Co., New York and London, 2000.
McAllister, Martin E., and Francis P. McManamon (2007)
Technical Brief 20: Archeological Resource Damage Assessment: Legal Basis and Methods. NPS Archeology Program, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
Proulx, Blythe Bowman (2013)
Archaeological Site Looting in “Glocal” Perspective: Nature, Scope, and Frequency. American Journal of Archaeology 117(1):111–125.
Sanders, Mark Russell (2013)
Hearts and Minds: Collaborative Approaches to Archaeological Site Preservation. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 572.
Hutt, Sherry, Elwood W. Jones, and Martin E. McAllister (1992)
Archeological Resource Protection. Preservation Press, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Washington, DC.
McAllister, Martin E. (1991)
Looting and Vandalism of Archaeological Resources on Federal and Indian Lands in the United States. In Protecting the Past, edited by George S. Smith and John E. Ehrenhard, pp. 93-99. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida.
Palmer, Robert (2007)
Federal Prosecutions under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979: A Ten-Year Review (1996-2005). In Yearbook of Cultural Property Law 2007, edited by Sherry Hutt and David Tarler, pp. 221-235. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. London and New York.
Welch, John R., Mark T. Altaha, Garry J. Cantley, William H. Doelle, Sarah A. Herr, Morag M. Kersel, Brandi L. MacDonald, Francis P. McManamon, Barbara Mills, Fred Nials, Mary Ownby, Michael Richards, Ramon Riley, Stacy L. Ryan, Duston Whiting, Donna Yates
2019 Conference Report, Hope in Dirt: Report of the Fort Apache Workshop on Forensic Sedimentology Applications to Cultural Property Crime, 15-19 October 2018. International Journal of Cultural Property 26:197-210.
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