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Legal Protections

Archaeological Sites and Artifacts

What are Archaeological Sites?
Archaeological Sites are concentrations of artifacts, rock art or features that reflect activities conducted by past human cultures. Archaeological sites are also areas or buildings where historic period human events occurred, such as mining camps or railroad construction sites. These areas are usually, but not always, accompanied by artifacts.
Cultural Resources are usually archaeological sites. They are also areas or localities that are considered by Native Americans to have been or are presently significant in the exercise of their respective Native American religions or traditional lifeway customs.
What are Artifacts?
Artifacts are objects that show evidence of use or alteration by humans. There are three kinds of artifacts:
  1. Prehistoric artifacts were used prior to written history, which is considered in North America to have been before the arrival of Europeans. Examples of prehistoric artifacts are arrowheads, manos and metates, and ceramic materials.
  2. Historic artifacts were used during written history, but more than 50 years ago. Historic artifacts include purple glass bottles, tin cans sealed with solder, and parts of wagons.
  3. Recent artifacts were used within the last 50 years and are generally not considered of archaeological significance.
Who May Collect Artifacts?

Archaeological artifacts and sites on public lands managed by the BLM are protected by numerous laws that began with the American Antiquities Act of 1906 and include the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1978. It is illegal to collect or disturb archaeological materials on public land without a permit issued from BLM or the appropriate land-managing agency. This includes arrowheads or other isolated finds. These permits are granted to qualified archaeologists associated with institutions or contracting firms. Violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including fines, confiscation of vehicles and equipment used, and imprisonment.