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  Managing Archeological Collections 3. Laws, Regs, Policies, and Ethics Distance Learning

Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979

(photo) Looking into a partially-excavated pit structure as archeologists work to recover information.
Excavating a pit structure. From the photograph collection of the Bureau of Land Management, Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado.

An important piece of archeological legislation, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, was enacted in 1979. ARPA strengthened the permitting procedures required for conducting archeological fieldwork on federal lands, originally mandated by the Antiquities Act. It also establishes more rigorous fines and penalties for unauthorized excavation on federal land.

ARPA is important from the standpoint of managing archeological collections because it:

  • acknowledges federal ownership of objects excavated from federal lands;
  • calls for the preservation of objects and associated records in a "suitable" institution, and
  • prohibits public disclosure of information concerning the nature and location of archeological resources that require a permit or other permission under ARPA for their excavation or removal.

An application for an ARPA permit must include authorization and a written agreement between the federal agency and an appropriate repository that will house and curate the collection recovered from the project. This permit process applies to all excavations on federal and Indian/tribal lands. ARPA also is the third law that permitted the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations on the care and management of archeological collections. These regulations (36 CFR Part 79) were issued in 1990.

In order to accommodate the repatriation or disposition requirements of NAGPRA, the ARPA regulations dealing with custody and ownership of archeological collections were amended in 1995 (see 43 CFR Part 7.13).

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