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Laws, Regulations, and Conventions
Related to Archeology


Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, June 8, 1906 (16 USC 431-433)

[Public Law 59-209, 34 Stat. 335] Provided for protection of historic, prehistoric, and scientific features on federal lands, with penalties for unauthorized destruction or appropriation of antiquities; authorized the President to proclaim national monuments; authorized scientific investigation of antiquities on federal lands subject to permit and regulations.

National Park Service Organic Act of August 25, 1916 (16 USC 1-4, 22, 43)

[Public Law 64-235, 39 Stat. 535] Established the National Park Service and directed it to manage the parks to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects... and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Historic Sites Act of 1935 (16 USC 461-467)

[Public Law 74-292, 49 Stat. 666] Declared a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects . . . authorized the NPS to restore, reconstruct, rehabilitate, preserve, and maintain historic or prehistoric sites, buildings, objects, and properties of national historical or archaeological significance and . . . "establish and maintain museums in connection therewith"; authorized cooperative agreements with other parties to preserve and manage historic properties.

Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960, as amended (16 USC 469-469c)

[Public Law 86-523, 74 Stat. 220] Provided for the recovery and preservation of historical and archeological data (including relics and specimens) that might be lost or destroyed in the construction of dams and reservoirs.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (16 USC 470-470t, 110)

[Public Law 89-665, 80 Stat. 915 as amended by P.L. 91-243, 84 Stat. 204; P.L. 93-54; P.L. 94-422, 90 Stat. 1313; P.L. 94-458; P.L. 96-199; P.L. 96-244; P.L. 96-515, 94 Stat. 2987; P.L 98-483; P.L. 99-514; P.L. 100-127; and P.L. 102-575, 106 Stat. 4753] Declared a national policy of historic preservation, including the encouragement of preservation on the state and private levels; required federal agencies to consider the effects of their undertakings on National Register properties (Section 106). Amended in 1976 [P.L. 94-422] to expand the domain of properties eligible for listing in the National Register. Amended in 1980 [P.L. 96-515] to incorporate Executive Order 11593 requirements, to give national historic landmarks extra protection in federal project planning. Amended in 1992 to redefine federal undertakings, address anticipatory demolition, and emphasize the interests and involvement of Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 (16 USC 469-469c)

[Public Law 93-291; 88 Stat. 174] Amended the 1960 Reservoir Salvage Act; provided for the preservation of significant scientific, prehistoric, historic, and archeological materials and data that might be lost or destroyed as a result of federally sponsored projects; provided that up to one percent of project costs could be applied to survey, data recovery, analysis, and publication.

American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (42 USC 1996 and 1996a)

[Public Law 95-341; 92 Stat. 469] Declared the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including, but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites.

Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended (16 USC 470aa-mm)

[Public Law 96-95; 93 Stat. 712] Defined archeological resources as any material remains of past human life or activities that are of archeological interest and at least 100 years old; required federal permits for their excavation or removal and set penalties for violators; provided for preservation and custody of excavated materials, records, and data; provided for confidentiality of archeological site locations; encouraged cooperation with other parties to improve protection of archeological resources. Amended in 1988 to require development of plans for surveying public lands for archeological resources and systems for reporting incidents of suspected violations.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (25 USC 3001-3013)

[Public Law 101-601; 104 Stat. 3049] Assigns ownership or control of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony that are excavated or discovered on federal or tribal lands after 1990 to lineal descendants or culturally affiliated Native American groups; establishes criminal penalties for trafficking in remains or objects obtained in violation of the act; provides that federal agencies and museums that receive federal funding shall inventory Native American human remains and associated funerary objects in their possession or control and identify their cultural and geographical affiliations within 5 years, and prepare summaries of information about Native American unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. This is to provide for repatriation of such items when lineal descendants or Native American groups request it.


"Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archeological Collections"
(36 CFR 79)

[NHPA and ARPA] Provides standards, procedures and guidelines to be followed by Federal agencies in preserving and providing adequate long-term curatorial services for archeological collections of prehistoric and historic artifacts and associated records that are recovered under Section 110 of the NHPA, the Reservoir Salvage Act, ARPA and the Antiquities Act.

"Preservation of American Antiquities" (43 CFR 3)

[Antiquities Act] Establishes procedures to be followed for permitting the excavation or collection of prehistoric and historic objects on federal lands.

"Protection of Archeological Resources" (43 CFR 7)

[ARPA] Provides definitions, standards, and procedures for federal land managers to protect archeological resources and provides further guidance for Interior bureaus on definitions, permitting procedures, and civil penalty hearings.


1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (19 USC 2601)

[Public Law 97-446] Forbids the importation and trade of archeological and ethnographic materials; enforced by the U.S. Customs Service.

Note: There may be a lag between the passage of laws and updates listed on linked non-NPS sites. USC is the U.S. Code; while CFR is the Code of Federal Regulations.

   Last Modified: Wednesday, October 05, 2005 AMY

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