• NCR Regional Archeology Program

    NCR Regional Archeology Program


Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA)

"Looting is not a simple case of trespass and petty larceny. It is a major crime...
  a breach of hallowed ground...and [is] an intentional attempt to steal part of history."
    — Richmond Battlefield Park


Desecration of Mary Blackwell Ohr's grave at C&O Canal, Hancock, MD.

Twice the Federal government has passed laws to protect archeological resources. Both the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA), as amended, make it illegal to excavate, remove, damage, alter or deface the material remains of human life and activity over 100 years old on Federal or Indian lands. The only exception to this is if the person(s) has a valid permit to conduct professional archeological research (ARPA permit). Fines of up to $500,000 and five years in jail are possible. Please report any violation or suspected violation you observe to the nearest National Park Service Ranger or U. S. Park Police Officer. If such information leads to a civil or criminal conviction you may receive a reward of up to $500.

Prohibited — when related to public or Indian lands — no person may:

  • Excavate, remove, damage, otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource (16 USC 470 ee(a))
  • Sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange any archaeological resource (16 USC 470ee(b))
  • Sell, purchase, exchange transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange, in interstate or foreign commerce, any archaeological resource ... in violation of any provision, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under State or local law (16 USC 470ee(c))
  • Knowingly violate, or counsel, procure, solicit, or employ any person to violate any prohibition (16 USC 470ee(d))

Criminal Penalties:

  • The archeological or commercial value plus the cost of restoration and repair
  • Forfeiture of materials, equipment, and vehicles
  • Misdemeanor ($500 or less) – $100,000 and / or 1 year in jail
  • Felony (more than $500) – $250,000 and / or 2 years in jail
  • Second Offense (prior misdemeanor or felony conviction; no value / damage limit) – misdemeanor up to $200,000; felony up to $500,000 and / or 5 years in jail

Civil Penalties (under CFR):

  • The archeological or commercial value plus the cost of restoration and repair
  • Forfeiture of materials, equipment, and vehicles
  • Damages are doubled for second and subsequent violations
Text of the law: Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979).

Unauthorized metal detecting and artifact collecting are strictly forbidden
in all parks and on all other federal property.