How many archeological sites does the National Park Service manage?
The NPS manages over 80,000 archeological sites. Archeological sites exist in almost every park managed by NPS, including ones you might know (like Casa Grande National Monument or Mesa Verde National Park) or ones you might not think of (such as Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Yellowstone National Park).
Where does archeology happen across the NPS?
- Region 1: National Capital Region
- Region 1: Northeast Archeological Resources Program
- Region 2: Southeast Archeological Center
- Region 3/4/5: Midwest Archeological Center
- Region 6/7/8: Western Archeological Conservation Center
- Region 11: Alaska Cultural Resources
- Submerged Resources Center
- In parks: Check on parks' websites for information about archeology, for example at Grand Canyon National Park or Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
What happens to all the artifacts that archeologists dig up on NPS lands?
The artifacts and associated documentation from an excavation, such as photographs and field notes, are all curated into a park or regional curatorial facility (such as the Western Archeological and Conservation Center or the Museum Resource Center). The NPS manages these materials in perpetuity on the public's behalf. Researchers, tribes, and members of the public may use them for their studies.
How many archeologists work for the NPS?
As of 2021, approximately 250 people work in the "0193" series, which is the hiring code for Archeologist. This number includes field archeologists, curators, and program managers.
Can I dig or metal detect in a park? Can the NPS host an archeological dig for my family's event?
The NPS only conducts archeological investigations which comply with the requirements of federal historic preservation laws.
Only NPS archeologists or others with approval to do archeology (such as contractors hired to work on a particular project) may excavate in parks. Digging on federal lands, including national parks, without a Permit for Archeological Investigations is against the law.
Metal detecting and metal detectors are illegal in parks managed by the NPS, as per the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. It is illegal for visitors to have metal detectors in their vehicles, and it is illegal for visitors to metal detect in parks.
The NPS welcomes families to become volunteers and help professional archeologists to excavate, as projects allow. Contact the park where you are interested in volunteering to ask for information.
Is the NPS involved in other archeological stewardship and research activities outside of protecting and interpreting its park resources?
Yes! By law, the NPS also manages community assistance and partnership programs. Some of these programs, such as the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks, manage lists of locally or nationally-significant archeological properties. Other programs, such as the American Battlefield Protection Program, provide grant funds that may be used for archeological places. Learn more about our national and community assistance programs at What We Do.
Does the NPS accept donations of archeological artifacts?
It depends. If you know where the artifacts were collected, contact the park or parks directly to see what they say. Federal law and park policies will determine whether or not donations of archeological artifacts are viable or appropriate.
Can the NPS tell me how much an artifact or family heirloom is worth?
No, the NPS cannot assess the value of artifacts or objects.
What's up with the spelling of "archeology" instead of "archaeology"?
The “ae” is a diphthong, which is a gliding vowel sound normally represented by two adjacent vowels. However, typographically, some diphthongs are represented as single ligature characters (that is, joined letters), so “ae” becomes æ. In 1890 or 1891, the US Government Printing Office (GPO), decided to economize by eliminating the ligatured ae. The GPO adopted new spelling rules that called for a simple substitution of e for the ligatured ae, hence the new spelling "archeology”.
Last updated: January 19, 2021