What If I Find an Artifact?

Photo of a small mochaware fragment

NPS Photo


What Is an Archaelogical Artifact?

"Artifacts" are the things that past peoples made, changed, and left behind where they lived and worked. Archaeology is the scientific study of past human cultures. Archaeologists excavate artifacts from archaeological sites.

Leave It Be

Artifacts are not souvenirs! Leave the artifact where you found it. Please don't pick it up, move it, throw it, put it in your pocket or your bag, or bury it.

Document the Location

Note where you are. Snap a picture of the artifact where you found it. Step back and photograph the artifact with a landmark. Please don't post them on social media.

Alert a Park Ranger

Show a park ranger your pictures and the location of the artifact. If you cannot find a ranger, call our Cultural Resources Division at (360) 816-6250.

Taking Artifacts Is Illegal

Federal law protects archaeological sites and artifacts on federal lands. You may not dig, collect artifacts, use metal detectors, or deface rock images in national park units.

Violations may result in jail time or fines, as well as confiscation of equipment. See the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) at 16 USC 470 § aa-mm and the associated regulations at 43 CFR 7.

Besides, collecting artifacts is not the right thing to do. By leaving artifacts in place, you help to preserve the condition of archaeological sites. Keeping sites intact enables archaeologists to study the past and share its stories with you. The National Park Service needs your help to preserve and protect archaeological resources for everyone to appreciate.

If You See Something Wrong

Please notify a ranger immediately if you observe someone removing artifacts, damaging sites or rock images, or using metal detecting equipment on park land.

Learn More and Get Involved

Learn more about archaeology and the National Park Service here, and find ways to volunteer, intern, and work in parks here.

Last updated: April 27, 2020

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