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The Antiquities Act Centennial June 14, 2006


Theodore Roosevelt, ca. 1904 (Library of Congress, LC-USZ6-826) [LARGER IMAGE]

A hundred years ago President Theodore Roosevelt, following his own conservationist beliefs and spurred on by scholarly and public outcry at the destruction of archaeological sites in the Southwest, signed into law An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities. "No other law has had such a wide-ranging influence on the protection of our nation's cultural and natural heritage," says Francis P. McManamon, chief archaeologist of the National Park Service.

Among the organizations involved in drafting and promoting the legislation was the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which in 1904 formed a Committee on the Preservation of the Ruins of American Antiquity. In 1905, Edgar Lee Hewett, while on an AIA fellowship intended to support excavation, instead lobbied congress. The bill passed and Roosevelt signed it on June 8, 1906. Two week earlier, he had signed another bill, one granting a congressional charter to the AIA for "the purpose of promoting archaeological studies by investigation and research in the United States and foreign countries." After his fellowship expired at the end of 1906, Hewett was appointed AIA's director of American archaeology, a new post.

ARCHAEOLOGY, which is published by AIA, has marked the centennial with a number of articles about the Antiquities Act.

  • A Visionary Act
    The Antiquities Act of 1906 defined the study of archaeology as a scientific endeavor and resulted in the protection of 167 million acres of cultural and natural environments.
    by K. Kris Hirst

    Our feature story looks into the origins of the Antiquities Act, placing it within the historical context of social movements in turn-of-the-century America and the efforts of extraordinary individuals.

  • 1906: A Remarkable Year for Archaeology
    by Jane C. Waldbaum

    In 1906, The Archaeological Institute of America was chartered by act of Congress. What's the link to the Antiquities Act passed and signed into law that same year?

  • A Century of Debate
    by Mark Rose

    A new book documents the origins--and at times contentious--legacy of the Antiquities Act.

  • Antiquities Act Centennial
    by Mark Rose

    The National Park Service provides an online guide to the ground-breaking 1906 act and the celebration of its 100th anniversary.

  • Federal Archaeologist
    The chief archaeologist of the National Park Service talks to ARCHAEOLOGY about the Antiquities Act

  • An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities (full text of act)

  • Last Minute Monuments
    President Clinton's designation of National Monuments led to fears that opponents might seek to undermine the Antiquities Act.

  • Bones & Bureaucrats
    Read about the controversy surrounding the excavation of America's newest National Monument in this feature story from the archives of ARCHAEOLOGY.

Check these external links for more about the Antiquities Act of 1906.

  • National Park Service
    Antiquities Act 1906-2006

    The best site on the web for the Antiquities Act. Lots of background and lots of information about the monuments presidents have created using the Act. See our review here!

  • Bureau of Land Management
    Adventures in the Past

    There's a single page for the Antiquities Act itself, but click on the link to "events" and you'll find a calendar of doings across the country and through the rest of 2006. A few are related to the Antiquities Act, but if you are interested in archaeology or history you'll want to browse here.

  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
    Antiquities Act Centennial

    Fish? Wildlife?? In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt created Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, a full three years before the Antiquities Act became the law of the land. This site ties the Act into the broader conservation movement of a hundred years ago. Moreover, click on "historic properties" and you'll discover archaeological sites, old mining camps, lighthouses, and more--all administered by USFWS.

  • American Anthropological Association
    Antiquities Act 1906-2006

    A century ago, the Archaeological Institute of America was pushing for the Antiquities Act. Working alongside it was the recently formed American Anthropological Association. Fittingly, AAA has a page devoted to the Act today. The essay by Francis P. McManamon, chief NPS archaeologist, is well worth reading (McManamon's quote at the top of this page is from that work).
© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America