Guidelines for Visiting Archeological Places

Help the National Park Service to preserve and protect archeological resources for generations to come by following a few simple rules. By following these rules, you'll play an important part in archeological stewardship.

Ranger Summer Roper assists students with their analysis and recording observations. NPS Photo.
NPS ranger teaches archeology skills to visitors.

Please don't:

  • Dig into the ground. You might disturb an archeological site. Excavation on national park lands without an archeological permit is illegal.
  • Use your metal detector in national parks, or even bring one with you in the car. Metal detecting and possession of a metal detector are illegal in national parks.
  • Take artifacts with you. Removing archeological artifacts from national parks is illegal. Leave artifacts where you see them on the ground or underwater.
  • Disturb pictographs or petroglyphs. Carving, painting over, or removing rock images is illegal. Even touching them can be harmful, because the oils in your skin damage the surface.
  • Move rocks or uproot trees, which can disturb archeological sites. As a rule of thumb, avoid disturbing the earth.
Please do:
  • Let a ranger know if you see a disturbed archeological site. Disturbed archeological sites often look like fresh, small pits dug by a shovel or pick.
  • Tell a ranger if you see someone doing something that may harm an archeological site, such as digging into the ground or metal detecting, or using sonar equipment in a lake.
  • Act respectfully to places that are sacred or culturally important. Think about how you'd like someone else to act around your ancestors.
  • Ask questions, like: Why were people here? What did people do? What was the weather like? What did they eat or drink? Bring any questions you have back to the visitor center.
  • Spread the word about what you've learned!

Last updated: May 11, 2021