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The Antiquities Act of 1906 — Analysis
Source: Historical Survey of U.S. Preservation Legislation, MATRIX, Indiana University Bloomington

A. Looting of Southwest sites reported by archaeologists like Adolf Bandolier leads to lobbying efforts for protection. In 1892, Casa Grande in New Mexico [Arizona?] 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.

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