Sunday, September 28, 2008

Early Efforts to Preserve Antiquities in the USA

A. The "Washington slept here syndrome": Historical buildings associated with important figures or periods of American history, especially the Revolutionary War. Examples: Old State House, Philadelphia (purchased from state by city in 1816); Hasbrouck House (Washington's headquarters in Newburgh, NY, bought by state in 1850); Mount Vernon, VA (private preservation effort by Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union).

B. Frederick Ward Putnam rescues the Serpent Mound in Ohio by purchase in 1885. Title given to Peabody Museum at Harvard, transferred in 1900 to the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society.

C. Archaeological organizations: Bureau of Ethnology created by Congress 1879 as part of Smithsonian. The Anthropological Society of Washington was founded in the same year (a spinoff in 1902 would become the American Anthropological Association). Also in the same year, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) was founded; among its early concerns were surveys of Pueblo Indian sites in the Four Corners Area and Pecos.

D. 20th-Century Trends:
1) Preservation for aesthetic reasons, not just historical associations (e.g., the Paul Revere House in Boston, owned by the historical personage but restored to original 17th-century appearance).
2) Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities founded in 1910.
3) Colonial Williamsburg founded in 1926; led to first interdisciplinary training program for historic preservation professionals, including historical archaeologists.
4) National Trust for Historic Preservation chartered in 1949.

II. The Antiquities Act of 1906
A. Looting of Southwest sites reported by archaeologists like Adolf Bandolier leads to lobbying efforts for protection. In 1892, Casa Grande in New Mexico becomes the first federal archaeological reservation set aside by the president.

B. Beginning in 1899, the AIA and American Association for the Advancement of Science work together to promote a bill to set aside archaeological and scenic sites of value. Several bills fail to win support in Congress; finally the Antiquities Act of 1906 is passed and becomes the first federal preservation law.

C. Elements of the Antiquities Act:
1) President may set aside archaeological objects, structures, and sites on federal lands as national monuments.
2) Damage or destruction to any historic or prehistoric object or site located on federal lands is prohibited and violators are subject to a fine, imprisonment, or both.
3) Investigations of sites on federal lands, including collection of objects and excavation, requires a permit.

D. Importance of the Antiquities Act:
1) The authority to set aside national monuments was used by many presidents; in fact, the Antiquities Act is the authority of more than a quarter of the units of today's National Park Service. This authority is still in effect.

2) The punitive provision of the Antiquities Act was successfully challenged in the case of U.S. v. Diaz, 368 F.Supp. 856 (D. Ariz. 1973), reversed in 1974, 499 F2d. 113 (9th Cir. 1974). The uncertainties resulting from this decision led to efforts to create a new, comprehensive law to protect archaeological resources on federal lands. The result was the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.

Read it all here.

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