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Archeology for Interpreters > 9. Use What You Know: Highlighted Case Study

What does the law have to do with this project?

[photo] Hooe dependency site, during intersection construction.

In 2001 intersection improvements began at Manassas National Battlefield Park, over one year after archeologists investigated the area. (Douglas Hembrey)

When visitors see archeologists working in a national park, few may understand the legal implications of that work. Laws enacted to protect archeological resources define conditions under which archeological investigations may be required and prohibit unauthorized digging on federal lands. Every legal aspect of archeology involves the public and encourages public participation and interest.

Archeologists discovered the Hooe Dependency Site when they were conducting a survey of an intersection in Manassas National Battlefield Park. The Virginia Department of Transportation is widening this intersection. Because the construction is taking place on federal land, the National Park Service is legally mandated to "take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties" (Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended). Thus, the National Park Service is responsible for conducting archeological surveys to identify all properties that may be impacted.

All archeological resources located on federal land are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). Without required permits any excavations—whether conducted by a professionally trained archeologist or a visitor—would be illegal and the perpetrator would face prosecution and rigid fines. Visitors who innocently pick up artifacts are subject to the law, as are “relic hunters” who deliberately bring metal detectors and shovels into a park.

Use What You Know

The Cultural Resource Management (CRM) section of this guide introduces you to key laws, regulations and NPS policies related to archeology. Questions you may consider as you plan to interpret how the law impacts archeological resources at Manassas National Battlefield Park are:

  • Why should visitors know about Section 106 compliance and archeology?
  • Why should visitors know about the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA)?
  • What message or messages about archeology and the law do you want visitors to take away with them?