Archeologists sit under rock to sort artifacts at a site
Archeologists inventory objects found at sites within Yosemite in hopes of preserving a scientific record that doesn't "grow back" if disturbed.

What is a cultural resource?

Cultural resources are objects, landscape, stories, structures, and documents that tell the story of a place. Unlike a natural resource (like plants and animals), a cultural resource cannot be renewed. A disturbed or destroyed cultural resource is gone forever.

Many federal and state laws are in place to protect cultural resources. The National Park Service makes protecting “historical objects” part of its mission to protect public lands. If you see someone damaging historical/archeological sites, please contact a ranger immediately to report the incident.

Tools assess artifact data
A bottle or can that looks like trash might be an historic artifact.

How can you help protect cultural resources?

  • Watch your step. Cultural sites can be fragile and can be disturbed by hiking, picnicking, or comping on top of them.

  • Leave them be. Oils from our skin can damage historical artifacts if they are handled. Cultural resource specialists often use special tools and gloves when handling objects. If you find an artifact while hiking, record the location and take a picture (if you know how, take a GPS coordinate of where you found it). Let Yosemite National Park know about an object by emailing us.

  • Know the difference between an historical artifact and modern trash. A tin can may look like trash at first glance, but it could be historical. If you spot something that looks old, notify a ranger along with the location. Leave it in place! Without the context (where it was found) artifacts cannot reveal much about the past.

Last updated: August 11, 2017

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