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  Public Archeology in the United States—A Timeline

Timeline 1970-1989

Dissatisfaction with some effects of salvage archeology led to the development of cultural resources management (CRM) in the U.S. CRM involves the management of "…not only archeological sites, but historic buildings and districts, social institutions, folkways, arts, crafts, architecture, belief systems, the integrity of social groups, the ambiance of neighborhoods…" (McGimsey & Davis 1977). During the 1970s, public agencies began to employ professional archeologists in unprecedented numbers to meet CRM responsibilities. The NPS, for example, extended its archeological and historic preservation responsibilities to archeological and historic resources within and outside the parks. Meanwhile, National Park System archeological sites were increasingly looted. This led to the passage of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act in 1979. Programs to improve the care and use of archeological collections, records, and reports also began to receive attention.

Timeline 1970-1989

  • 1970
  • 1971
  • 1972
    • Hester Davis publishes "The Crisis in American Archaeology" in Science.
  • 1974
    • The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act passes. The establishment of marine sanctuaries help preserve shipwrecks within their boundaries.
    • Example of Guatemalan Stele

      Example of stolen Guatemalan stele

      Photo courtesy of USIA

      The Archeological and Historic Preservation Act, also known as the Moss-Bennett Act, is enacted. This act assigns the oversight and coordination of U.S. public archeology to the Secretary of the Interior. It also authorizes federal agencies to expend funds on archeological excavations, testing, and associated research and publication of project results.
    • The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lets stand the conviction of two men charged with conspiracy and interstate transport of a Pre-Columbian stele stolen from a Mayan ruin in Guatemala. The case involves using the definition of stolen property under Guatemalan law and marks an early effort to stem the illicit international trade in cultural property.
    • Cataloging items at the Yorktown excavation

      Cataloging items at the Yorktown excavation

      Increasing awareness of federal agencies' archeological responsibilities leads to an increased hiring of professional archeologists.
    • The Cultural Resource Management Conference, the first of its kind, is held in Denver.
    • The Society of Professional Archeologists (SOPA) develops a Code of Ethics and Standards of Performance. It establishes a written code for professional activities by its members and provides a model for other archeologists to follow.
  • 1975
    • Girls Scout Troop participating in Virginia Archeology Week

      Girls Scouts participating in Virginia Archeology Week

      The wreck site of the Civil War ship USS Monitor is designated the first national marine sanctuary.
  • 1977
    • The Management of Archeological Resources: The Airlie House Report is published by the SAA and establishes guidelines for CRM practices.
    • The Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS) is created. It incorporates the functions of the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation formerly carried out by the NPS.
  • 1978
  • 1979
    • The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) passes. It affirms the public policy of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and promises to improve the enforcement of archeological resource protection, including sites and collections.
  • 1980
    • Three men arrested in 1977 for looting an archeological site in Arizona's Tonto National Forest plead guilty to charges brought under ARPA's criminal provisions. The case (United States v. Jones, et al.) marks the first three convictions under the new act.
    • The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act more than doubles the size of the National Park System.
  • 1981
    • HCRS is abolished and archeological and historic preservation functions are reintegrated into the NPS.
  • 1983
    • Tildon Easton Pottery site

      Tildon Easton Pottery site

      Photo courtesy of Alexandria Archaeology

      The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation are issued to provide technical guidance to federal, state and local governments about archeological and historic preservation activities and methods.
    • The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act is signed into law, allowing the U.S. to restrict the import of cultural property at the request of foreign nations or states. It provides the legal basis for the UNESCO Convention of 1970 in the U.S.
  • 1984
    • The authority to issue archeological permits is redelegated to each Federal land-managing agency.
    • Underwater archeology

      Underwater archeology

      Uniform Federal regulations 43 CFR Part 7 establish procedures for implementing provisions of ARPA, including protecting archeological resources, issuing permits for authorized excavations, imposing penalties for unauthorized excavations, providing for the preservation of collections and data, and ensuring confidentiality of sensitive information.

  • 1986
    • One year after discovery of the wreck of the RMS Titanic, the RMS Titanic Maritime Memorial Act encourages the US and other nations to enter into negotiations to designate the shipwreck as an international maritime memorial and develop guidelines to conduct research on, exploration of, and, if appropriate, salvage of the shipwreck.
  • 1987
    • The U.S. imposes an import restriction on certain pre-Hispanic archaeological material originating in El Salvador, the first import restriction under the authority of the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
  • 1988
    • The Abandoned Shipwreck Act is enacted. It establishes government ownership over historic shipwrecks in state waters and declares that shipwrecks are not subject to the law of finds and Admiralty courts.
    • Amendments to ARPA strengthen law enforcement and add public education.

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