Katchina Daisy

The Cedar Mesa Project

Archaeological Site Etiquette

Return to The Cedar Mesa Project Home Page.

"Though not all my days are as wild as this, each one holds its surprises, and I have seen almost more beauty than I can bear. Many times in the search for water holes and cliff dwellings, I trusted my life to crumbling sandstone and angles little short of the perpendicular, startling myself when I came out whole and on top."
Rusho, W. L., Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty, Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, 1983, P.142

If your interest in visiting sites is new, you can learn much by visiting protected sites such as Hovenweep NM, Mesa Verde NP, Wupatki NM, Chaco Canyon NHP, Navajo NM, and/or Canyon de Chelly NP. Take a ranger walk, talk to park archaeologists and ask questions. Visit museums such as the Edge of the Cedars in Blanding, Utah and the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado. Read.

Consider visiting archeological sites yourself. There is much to be gained by spending time on the land among the remains of its ancient inhabitants. You may see dwellings, pictographs, petroglyphs, signatures, potsherds, or stone tools. Keep the following in mind and your visit will be more rewarding for you will have had minimal human impact on the land, thereby leaving it for another to discover.

Consider yourself a guest in someone's home and act appropriately. Many Native Americans consider the land where their ancestors lived to be "alive and to be respected."

Avoid walking on middens. Middens are the soft, often charcoal-stained soil prehistoric trash heaps usually located immediately in front of or down slope of an alcove or cliff site. They contain valuable archeological evidence of day to day activities that reveal significant preferences in pottery, food, tools, and even treatment of the dead. Since foot traffic causes erosion, please stay on the trail.

Do not lean, stand, or sit on prehistoric walls; that weakens the bonding material and eventually destroys them.

Leave all artifacts, such as arrowheads, pottery shard, where you found them. In its original context, each potsherd and flint flake contains a wealth of valuable information. Visitors who rearrange their finds are robbing the items of their true value; this includes ancient Puebloan artifacts as well as historic artifacts, 50 years old or older, including bottles, coins, and metal fragments. Further, be conscious of adding "offerings" or your own debris to a site.

If you find something that appears particulary interesting or possibly valuable, contact the BLM. (Tel: 801/539-4001 in Salt Lake City, or 435/259-2196 in Moab.) This applies especially to human remains which have occasionally weathered out.

Camp outside archelogical sites. Food attracts rodents who may then nest in the site, smoke damages rock art, and your charcoal precludes the ability to radiocarbon date a site. Also, you may be sleeping on an ancient burial. The spirits will haunt you!

Keep pets away from sites. Animals damage sites by digging, urinating, and defecating in them. They can destroy fragile cultural deposits.

Preserve rock art by not touching it in any way! Even the slightest amount of human oils can erode petroglyphs and destroy delicate pigments. Re-pecking or re-painting doesn't restore rock art, it destroys the original.

Document and preserve historic inscriptions. Often, these names and dates left in bullet lead and charcoal are the only means to retrace in museums to their original sites. Look for names like Wetherill, J.L. Ethridge, C.C. Graham, McLoyd, C.B. Lang, W.J. Billings, Harry French, D.W. Ayres, Emory Knowles, and Orian Buck.

Report suspicious activities or acts of vandalism to the appropriate land management agency as soon as you witness it. Photograph evidence and record license plate numbers if you can. The 1979 Archaeological Resources Act provides stiff penalties for violators, and rewards for information that leads to a conviction. The Bureau of Land Management's national telephone number is 800/722-3998.

When you pass the GPS coordinates of some fantastic ruin or rock art site "not on anybody's map" on to someone else, explicitly ask them to respect this heritage.

Antiquities Laws and Regulations Page for more information about the laws that apply.

Become involved. Governmental agencies are seemingly always in the process of making decisions that require public involvement. Volunteer your services to public interest groups such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Grand Canyon Trust, and the Cedar Mesa Project.

From: "The Landscape Remembers, Centennial Exhibit, Utah Museum of Natural History and Bruce Hucko

See the Cedar Mesa Project Network Page for an introduction to the Cedar Mesa Project.

Return to Cedar Mesa home page.

URL of this page: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/cacvvist.htm
Revised '9-Jun-2001,11:10:14'
Copyright ©1996, 1999 SCCS.