Archaeological Resources Protection Act



ARPA in essence, forbids anyone from excavating or removing an archaeological resource from federal land or traditional Native American lands without a permit from the responsible land-managing agency. It also forbids the sale, purchase, exchange, transport, or receipt of any resource removed in violation of ARPA, or any provision from any other law. Violators face substantial fines and jail sentences if convicted (see below for details), and confiscation of what they have dug up and what they have dug it up with (including vehicles, boats, etc.) (King 1998).


The term archaeological resource means any material remains of past human life or activities that are of archaeological interest, including, but not limited to: pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, pit houses, rock paintings, rock carvings, intaglios, graves, human skeletal materials, or any portion or piece of any of these items. Non-fossilized and fossilized paleontological specimens, or any portion or piece thereof, shall not be considered archaeological resources, under the regulations, unless found in an archaeological context. No item shall be treated as an archaeological resource under this paragraph unless such item is at least 100 years of age (National Park Service 1993).


To secure for the present and future benefit of the American people, the protection of archaeological resources and sites that are on public lands and Native American lands, and to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities, the professional archaeological community, and private individuals having collections of archaeological resources and data obtained before the date of the enactment of this act (National Park Service 1993).


*If the commercial or archaeological value of the archaeological resources involved and the cost of restoration and repair of the resources exceeds the sum of $500, the violator will be fined no more than $20,000 or imprisoned no more than 2 years or both (U.S. Department of Interior 1993).

**In the case of a second or subsequent violation.

Written by Leah Evans-Janke, Collections Manager, Alfred Bowers Lab of Anthropology, University of Idaho.