On this episode of the Women in Archaeology Podcast we discuss the US’s decision to leave UNESCO. We cover what this means for archaeology in the US and abroad, why the US made this decision, and potential political ramifications.
Summary: On this episode of the Women in Archaeology Podcast we will be revisiting the topic of sexual harassment. We will discuss new developments in the past year, the SAA panel from the last meeting, and resources for survivors.
Check out the Women in Archaeology website: https://womeninarchaeology.wordpress.com/
I think historic archaeological sites and artifacts sometimes get a bad rap for not being as interesting or fun for archaeologists to record and it can be difficult to explain to non-archaeologists the importance of protecting a pile of tin cans. I’m not talking about the large-scale heritage sites like Mount Vernon or a wooden fort, but piles of tin cans and other historic rubbish piles. While surveying, I have been guilty of being like, “ugh, another hole-in-top can. Break out gps.” At times, I have to remind myself the importance of recording the past, no matter the date. Where I’ve done most of my work in the southwest, isolated artifacts and dumps can tell us so much about how people lived during the 19th and 20th centuries. And there is so much more than just tin cans—there are beautiful amethyst and aqua glass, fragments of leather shoes, and so on, to discover. In different parts of the United States, amazing historic artifacts have been recovered from the 16th and 17th centuries, such as metal fragments of armor along the Santa Fe Trail. And, then there are all of the unique post-contact artifacts of various Native American groups, such as metal projectile points. So, in a nutshell, historic archaeology can be pretty fascinating.
Please note: it is both unethical and illegal to remove any kind of artifact—prehistoric or historic—from archaeological sites on public lands. It doesn’t matter how nice you think that historic bottle would look on your desk. Leave it!
For type guides on historic artifacts, visit:
-The Society for Historical Archaeology: https://sha.org/resources/20th-century-artifacts/
On this episode of Women in Archaeology, we discussed the changing academic and social roles of museums in the United States. We also briefly talked about the origins of museums and how museum outreach and exhibitions can be improved.
On October 31st, 1979, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, otherwise known as ARPA, was signed into law by President Carter. You might be asking yourself, so what? What’s so important about ARPA? Before ARPA, there was very little archaeologists could do to prosecute looters of archaeological sites in the United States. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first real US cultural resource management law, but by the 1970s, it was, well, antiquated.
What is ARPA all about?
The need to better protect archaeological resources came to the forefront in several court cases that showcased how ineffectual the Antiquities Act was in prosecuting those caught looting archaeological sites. One case, U.S. vs Diaz pretty much declared the act unconstitutional. Something had to be done! People were getting away with damaging sites and stealing artifacts. In a later discussion on the development of ARPA, archaeologist Janet L. Friedman (Friedman 1985) wrote:
“The birth and growth of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act was a chronicle of self-righteous special interests, jealous turf-protectors, and conflicting value systems. For every archeologist devoted to protecting irreplaceable sites, there was a metal-detector manufacturer equally devoted to protecting the rights of hobbyists. For each conservationist dedicated to saving sites for all of the people, there was an enthusiast dedicated to making arrowhead collecting available to the individual.”
Fortunately, Congress took action with the help of the Society of American Archaeology, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and the Tennessee Valley authority. And the law came into fruition.
The first sentence of ARPA really breaks down the law to its primary purpose: ‘to protect archaeological resources on public lands and Indian lands, and for other purposes.’ Public lands are anything regulated by the U.S. government, like the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and so on.
The key points of ARPA
- The law provides a variety of definitions, such as what is an archaeological resource, and what constitutes public lands.
- Outlines a rigorous permitting system to conduct archaeological excavations.
- Allows Native American tribes to issue or deny archaeological permits for work proposed on Indian lands.
- Mandates that all federal agencies must consult with Native American tribes before issuing permits.
- Provides clear and severe penalties for the looting and/or vandalism of sites. That can include a fine up to $20,000 and jail time for two years for first time offenders!
- And, outlaws the trafficking illegally obtained archaeological resources.
So, if you’re walking along on a nice National Park Service trail and you spot a really cool projectile point or pottery fragment—can you take it? Or, if you’re visiting someplace like Mesa Verde, can you sit on the walls or carve your name near some rock art? Or, can you conduct your own so-called excavation on some site you found on Forest Service lands? With ARPA, the answer is a resounding NO! Not only could you receive a fine, you could go to jail. And you don’t want to tell people you went to jail for taking artifacts or harming a site, now would you? Thanks, ARPA!
Between 1150 and 1550 CE, the Ancestral Pueblo people carved out homes from the volcanic tuff in the area that is now Bandelier National Monument. One of my favorite sites at Bandelier is Long House, a large complex of multi-storied dwellings built against a cliff face with hundreds of small rooms carved into the rock. I love the petroglyphs throughout the complex. You can see the holes for the roof beams, indicating the location of second and third floors. It is amazing to be able to see where people would have stood on top of their roof to make the designs. Please note, it is incredibly important to never climb on the walls of any site and to never touch the rock art images; it is both unethical and illegal to damage archaeological sites.
On today’s episode the hosts discuss the removal of statues from public space. They pay particular attention to the confederate monuments that are the subject of current public debate.