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Have you ever wondered who—or what—may have lived on your land before you, and how long ago? Have you thought about how ancient peoples survived there, what they ate, what their houses and tools looked like? And then there are the prehistoric animals that may have roamed the land you live on. What species were they, and how long did their lines last? Were they big, ferocious dinosaurs, or perhaps some small, timid ancestors of the mammals we know today?

Every archaeological, historic, or fossil site has a unique and special story to tell about the people and animals that came before us. Properly studied—and conserved—by archaeologists, historians, and/or paleontologists, these places can truly bring the past alive for you and your family, your fellow citizens, and future generations of Americans.

You can be a good steward of these important places so that their stories can be told. Here are a few suggestions how:

  • Invite an expert from a local college or university to visit your land and evaluate any potential cultural or fossil sites. A professional archaeologist, historian, or paleontologist might be able to tell you the age of a site, how it was used, its relationship to surrounding sites, which now-extinct animals lived there, and more. For more recent sites, specialists may even be able to direct you to local historic records for further information.
  • If you have a Site Steward program in your community, you can request that local archaeology volunteers monitor your property so that relic hunters will not destroy sites by illegally digging for artifacts or fossils. Better yet, why not become a Site Steward yourself?
  • If developing your property will necessitate disturbing an archaeological or fossil site, your local college or university will likely appreciate the opportunity to study the site before you begin excavation or construction. Your property might even be a great location for an archaeological or paleontological field school activity, enabling students to learn how to properly study and record sites and fossils. If you like, the results of their studies can be shared with you and your family.
  • Is there an avocational archaeological or paleontological society in your state? If so, local members may be interested in studying your site under the direction of professional advisors. What they learn about your property could turn out to be fascinating, both to them and to you!
  • Safeguard your property—and the resources it holds—by using common sense! Don’t attract artifact- and fossil-collectors by advertising the presence of ancient sites on your land. Being discreet about such places can help protect them from theft and vandalism.