Federal Archaeologist - Archaeology Magazine Archive

Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Federal Archaeologist June 30, 2006

National Park Service chief archaeologist Frank McManamon discusses his career and the Antiquities Act.

(Courtesy Frank McManamon)

This June President Bush designated the 140,000-square-mile Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, the newest such reserve created using the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt a hundred years ago. ARCHAEOLOGY spoke with Frank McManamon, chief archaeologist at the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over most of the Monuments, about his career and the Antiquities Act.

How did you become interested in archaeology?
I remember as a boy being interested in very old things. For example, I collected fossils which were not hard to find in northeastern Pennsylvania where I grew up. I never could find any animal fossils, only ferns and other plants. These were interesting, but not so engaging to keep me focused on fossils. So my interest in the distant past, which also extended to dinosaurs and cave men, went into dormancy until college when I became interested in anthropology as my undergraduate major.

What and where did you study?
I attended Colgate University and took archaeology and human evolution courses from John Longyear, a Mayanist who was the only archaeologist in the department. Professor Longyear was a very low-key person with a wonderful dry sense of humor. He was willing to help out any student, even someone like me with almost no background in archaeology, who showed an interest, providing counsel and as much information as the student asked for. With his encouragement, I decided to try for a career in archaeology.

What aspect of archaeology did you specialize in?
I attended the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY-Binghamton) for my graduate education. At that time I entered SUNY-Binghamton in the fall of 1973, public archaeology, or cultural resource management, was just getting going in a big way. After initially working on the archaeology of western Europe, I decided to concentrate instead on the archaeology of Northeastern North America. In part this was because the subject matter wasn't all that different. I was interested in the European Mesolithic and early Neolithic, which involved ways of life, material culture, and even a natural environment not so different from the American Northeast. Also, there were employment opportunities in the Northeast, in particular public projects that SUNY-Binghamton was becoming active in. I was able to get a research assistantship and supervised the Archaeology Lab for the Public Archaeology Facility that was established about that time by the department.

Margaret Lyneis and Fred Plog, who were my M.A. advisors, encouraged students to engage in the public archaeology projects and use data from them or related to them for research projects and theses. Margaret taught what must have been one of the earliest public archaeology courses in the U.S. It was a two-semester seminar that covered the legal and regulatory, professional, and public issues that I have found myself dealing with ever since!

The graduate students who were interested were able to take real responsibility for the public archaeology projects being done through the university. It was an exciting time to be a grad student because we were relied upon by the professors to conduct major parts of field- and labwork, as well as analysis and report preparation for large public projects. Probably being given these early professional responsibilities and because our professors both said public archaeology was important, a number of the graduate students, including me of course, have made careers in this part of the profession.

How did your own career develop?
My first job out of grad school was with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, as staff archeologist. My wife Carol and I moved to Boston in February of 1976 for me to take that job. That was another very good learning experience in both the substance of cultural resource management, as it was emerging, historic preservation, and public archaeology. It also was quite a bit of responsibility suddenly to be the public agency voice for archaeology in Massachusetts, one of those professional duties that isn't taught directly in graduate school.

When did you make the jump to the Park Service?
I was at the MHC until September 1977 when the position of regional archeologist opened up in the NPS Boston office. I applied and got that job and stayed there until July 1986. That was another interesting and challenging job. The NPS had not had an archaeologist in the North Atlantic region before I got this position. John Cotter had covered the New England states and New York from his office in Philadelphia, but the NPS had reorganized to create a new region and so a new regional archeologist job. During the nearly ten years that I was there, I had the opportunity to work on archaeological investigations or other kinds of cultural resource management activities, like planning, protection programs, development projects, and park interpretation and exhibit, in most of the two dozen or so park units in the region. I also had chances to work on several national-level NPS activities and meet my NPS archaeological colleagues from other parts of the country. These contacts provided a network of friendships and sources of information that have been invaluable and that I still use regularly.

And from Boston to Washington?
In 1986, I accepted a job at the NPS Washington, D.C. office, to head what was then called the Archeological Assistance Division. The function of this program was to provide coordination of federal agency archaeological activities outside of the National Park system, to provide technical assistance to other agencies to help the conduct archaeological projects when they requested, and to provide leadership in the development of policies, guidelines, regulations, and technical information for federal archaeology. This was, to some extent, a new archaeological world for me. Most of my archaeological experience had been in the Northeast where only the NPS, Forest Service, and Corps of Engineers had archaeological staffs at that time. I was not very familiar with how other agencies organized their archaeological programs, or with the individuals involved in these programs. So, another learning curve and set of opportunities presented themselves.

In the 20 years since then, the NPS has reorganized its archaeological program at the Washington office. Since 1995, the Archaeology Program, which I manage, has covered both the interagency functions of the old Archeological Assistance Division and the development of policies, guidelines, information for archaeological resources within the units of the National Park system. That combination has made it possible for me to work again on the archaeological resources from National Park units as well as to continue working with archaeologists and on archaeological resources and projects in other public agencies. I've enjoyed doing both very much.

How many National Monuments is the National Park Service responsible for and how many archaeological sites are on them?
Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt have established 123 national monuments by presidential proclamation using the authority given to them by section 2 of the Antiquities Act. President George W. Bush has proclaimed the two newest of this number, the African Burial Ground NM in New York City, which at less than an acre is also one of the smallest national monuments. President Bush also has proclaimed the largest national monument; in mid-June, he proclaimed the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands NM, covering hundreds of square miles of ocean, coral reefs, atolls and islands at the western end of the Hawaiian Island chain.

The National Park Service manages 104 of the presidentially proclaimed monuments. The Bureau of Land Management manages most of the others, with the Fish and Wildlife also managing a few. Approximately 25,000 archeological sites have been recorded by the NPS in the national monuments and former national monuments that its manages. Certainly there are tens of thousands more sites in these monuments that have not yet been identified and recorded.

In addition, Congress has created by legislation another 34 national monuments. Most of these also are managed by the NPS; about 75 of the national monuments either proclaimed by the President or created by Congress have been redesignated as National Parks, National Historical Parks, National Historical Sites, or another designation. There really are a number of ways to count national monuments, not to mention their acreages and the number of times their sizes have been increased. The set of numbers on this topic are a little like sports statistics and have as many different ways of being sorted and resorted for those that might be interested.

Beyond being the custodian of those sites, what other archaeological programs is NPS involved with?
The National Park Service has a substantial role regarding archaeology beyond the National Park units. We are responsible for providing leadership and coordination for federal archaeology programs. This involves developing regulations related to archaeological resources, when necessary; providing policies and guidance; collecting and disseminating information about federal archaeological programs and resources; and, providing technical assistance for public archaeology programs or projects when requested. All of these kinds of activities are provided by the NPS Archaeology Program in Washington, DC, and in several of the NPS regional offices and archaeological centers, for example, in Tallahassee, FL; Lincoln, NB; Santa Fe, NM; Tucson, AZ; Seattle, WA; and, Anchorage, AK. Information about this range of activities, products, and programs can be found at our web site, www.cr.nps.gov/archeology. In addition to our involvement with the professional archaeological community in public agencies, museums, and academic settings, we have developed a number of publications and programs to reach out to the general public and special groups like students and teachers. Of particular interest for those with a general interest in archaeology, the following web sites will be of interest: Discover Archaeology, Teacher Resources, and Archaeology for Kids.

Other NPS programs, such as the National Landmarks Program, the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), and the Cultural Resource Geographic Information System Program are involved in archaeological projects and have archaeologists on their staffs.


With the Statue of Liberty in 1986 (Courtesy Frank McManamon) [LARGER IMAGE]

What is one of the most memorable moments during your career with the Park Service?
In December 1986, when the Statue of Liberty was nearing the end of the rehab done for its centennial commemoration, I was on Liberty Island to see some archeological fieldwork that was underway for utility conduits being put in as part of the overall rehab of the monument. The scaffolding still was up and I was able to go up to the crown and tablet and see some of the work that had been done on the "skin" and joints to repair the statue after a century of wear and tear. I think the scaffolding was coming down the next week, so I was glad to have a chance to see the Statue up close and personal one last time.

Why is the AA so important to all Americans?
The Antiquities Act is important to all Americans because of the archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, scenic, and scientific resources and places that have been preserved for all Americans in the many National Monuments set aside for conservation, preservation, and public enjoyment. Beyond these special national places, the act's provisions established that conservation, preservation, archaeology, history, and science were important activities that government agencies should support and be involved with actively and positively. Finally, the act provided a foundation for viewing archaeological, historical, and scientific resources as valuable for the commemorative, educational, and research values they contained and not primarily as commodities for commercial exchange.

What was the initial impetus for the Antiquities Act of 1906?
The initial impetus for the Antiquities Act was to stop the destruction of archaeological sites in the American Southwest by new settlers scavenging for materials that they could use in their homesteads or for artifacts that they could sell. Ronald F. Lee, in his fascinating history of the Antiquities Act (available in electronic form here), sets the date for the beginning of the gestation of the Act in 1879. Lee notes that in this year four events occurred that affected subsequent activities that led to the Antiquities Act 27 years later. The events of 1879 included, the publication by Frederic Ward Putnam of a superbly illustrated report on the ancient pueblo archeological sites in Arizona and New Mexico. Putnam remained active in American archaeology from his position at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology until his death in 1915. He served as a member of several committees and boards that later worked for federal legislation to protect American antiquities. Also in 1879, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) elected Lewis Henry Morgan its president, the first anthropologist to be elected to this position. Eventually the AAAS created a special section on Anthropology and an influential committee that contributed to the push for federal protecting American antiquities. In 1879, the Anthropological Society of Washington (ASW) was formed; its membership included many of the anthropologists and archaeologists then beginning to be hired by the federal government, as well as others in the national capital who were interested in anthropological and archaeological matters. In 1902, members of the ASW were instrumental in creating the American Anthropological Association (AAA), a national organization which provided crucial support for the Antiquities Act legislation in the years immediately before its passage. In 1879, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) was formed to promote and carry out archaeological investigations at classical period sites in Mediterranean countries, but also in America. Leaders of the AIA were important advocates for the investigation and preservation of American antiquities from the formation of the institute until the passage of the Act in 1906.

Was there something special about 1879?
It is coincidental that all these events related to the ultimate development and enactment of the Antiquities Act occurred in 1879. What is suggests, however, is the growing public concern about the conservation of American natural resources and preservation of historic sites, structures, and places associated with important events and people in American history. These social movements came to focus on the use of the American political system to address the conservation and preservation concerns. The creation of national parks, the first being Yellowstone in 1872, through Congressional action is one example. Another is the establishment of a system of national forest reserves, initially in 1891 with subsequent developments to ensure reserve management that would produce a sustainable supply of lumber products through efficient use. Between 1879 and 1906, the preservation of archaeological sites, at least those on public lands, came to be another of the American resource types dealt with through action by the federal government.


Adolph Bandelier (Courtesy National Park Service) [LARGER IMAGE]

The very first archaeological investigation funded by the institute, and begun in 1880, was Adolph Bandelier's survey of and report on archaeological sites of the American Southwest. What impact did Bandelier's report have?
There is a story related by Adolph Bandelier that he was told during the 1880 investigation of Southwestern archaeological sites funded by the first AIA archaeological investigation. Bandelier interviewed Mrs. Kozlowski, a long time settler in the region around the well-known archaeological site of Pecos, just east of Santa Fe in northern New Mexico. The lady told Bandelier that in 1858 when she first came to the area, the roof of the old Spanish mission church at Pecos was intact. Her husband tore the roof off the church and, any wood being scarce in the region, used it to build outbuildings on his ranch. Bandelier's reports of such destruction at important sites in the Southwest spurred the earliest concerted efforts towards the Antiquities Act.

Why did it take so long--a quarter century--to get it done?
The long time period between the events of 1879 and the enactment of the Antiquities Act in 1906 was due to uncertainty about how to best proceed. Activity aimed to help preserve American antiquities occurred throughout this period. From our perspective, it looks like a process of trial and error. For one thing, the individuals and groups who were interested in American antiquities were not a united force and they did not initially recognize that a federal law protecting all archaeological sites on public lands and regulating the excavation or removal of artifacts from these sites was the goal they should pursue. Nonetheless, all was not simply unproductive thrashing about, there were important accomplishments and milestones of progress between 1879 and 1906. One of the earliest achievements was a petition to the U.S. Senate asking this body to arrange for the preservation of "at least some of these extinct cities and pueblos." The petition, presented on behalf of the New England Historic Genealogical Society by Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts asked that some of these ancient and historic sites "be withheld from public sale and their antiquities and ruins be preserved, as they furnish invaluable data for the ethnological studies now engaging the attention of our most learned scientific, antiquarian, and historical students." Senator Hoar probably was sympathetic to the sentiments of the petition. After all, he was a trustee of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard, a regent of the Smithsonian, and president of both the American Antiquarian Society and theAmerican Historical Association. However, his Senate colleagues were less willing to undertake actions favorable to the petition and nothing came of this early effort.

Between 1883 and 1888, Frederic Ward Putnam was able to organize interested prominent citizens of Boston, including members of the AIA, to raise funds for the purchase of Serpent Mound, an outstanding example of ancient earthen architecture. This effigy mound--in the form of a serpent about to swallow an egg--was recorded in 1845 as part of the extensive study of mound complexes of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys by Ephraim G. Squier and Edwin H. Davis. Alice C. Fletcher, Francis Parkman, and Martin Brimmer were active in the fund-raising effort. The site eventually was deeded to the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, which still maintains it as a state park in Ohio.

Efforts to preserve Casa Grande were pivotal, no?
Seven years after the unsuccessful Senate petition, in 1889, yet another Boston-based effort had more success on the national level. Growing concerns had been raised about the deteriorating conditions at the site of Casa Grande outside Coolidge, Arizona. One of the ancient structures on this site, known as "the Big House," was a well-known landmark that also had given the entire site its name. Unfortunately, this large adobe structure was weathering away and also being picked apart by local homesteaders and an increasing number of tourist visitors. Fourteen citizens of Boston and environs again wrote to Senator Hoar requesting that the federal government urgently take steps to protect the site of Casa Grande "from destruction or injury." The writers were a very distinguished group of citizens, including: Oliver Ames, Governor of Massachusetts, Mary Hemenway, Francis Parkman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Perhaps the specific request was easier for the Congress to act on; perhaps in the years since the unproductive petition of 1882 advocating general preservation of ancient sites and buildings Congress had become more aware of the problem and was more willing to take action. Whatever the exact reason, Congress acted in 1889 to appropriate funds for repair of deterioration at Casa Grande and authorized the president to withdraw the land containing the site from settlement or sale. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order protecting the Casa Grande ruin and 480 acres around it, thus establishing the first formal federal archaeological preserve in the United States.


Casa Grande (Courtesy National Park Service) [LARGER IMAGE]

How did events progress from saving Casa Grande to the signing of the Act?
The preservation of Casa Grande was an important success and a notable milestone along the road to the Antiquities Act, but, in fact, it saved only a single site in a region full of archaeological sites that increasingly were subject to looting and scavenging. It was not until 1900 that effective actions for the preservation of archaeological sites picked up again. Between 1900 and 1906, a few specific sites or areas of known archaeological importance, for example, Frijoles Canyon and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Mesa Verde in Colorado, were withdrawn from possible settlement or sale by the General Land Office, a bureau of the Department of the Interior that managed most of the federal lands in the western United States, thus legally, if not practically, preserving them for future preservation and protection.

More importantly, advocates for federal action to preserve archaeological sites shifted from general petitions to Congress and focus on individual sites to working directly with representatives in Congress on specific legislative proposals. In 1900, several pieces of proposed legislation were introduced and considered by Congress. None of them emerged as laws, but a baseline of legislative language and concepts for archaeological preservation and protection was laid. Between 1900 and 1906, the focus for a national approach to protecting archaeological sites on public lands in the United States was the U.S. Congress. A series of legislative proposals were introduced, hearings were held and variations on text were considered and debated. Finally, in 1906, a consensus bill was introduced with broad support by professionals in museums and universities and archaeological organizations. Political support and endorsement of the Administration was mustered. On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill enacting the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Was passage of the Act possible because of individuals--such as TR, Edgar Lee Hewett, and John F. Lacey--or was it the result of a social movement?
The Antiquities Act was created and became American law through the actions of individuals. Some, but far from all, of the individuals are mentioned in the last answer. These individuals were motivated in a variety of ways. Probably the motivations included the values espoused by some of the social (and political) movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specifically, the political movement known as The influence of Progressivism in the Antiquities Act is clear from the roles authorized for the President, who can independently proclaim National Monuments in section 2, and for the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and War who can decide which institutions should be allowed to conduct scientific and educational archaeological investigations on public lands. These government officials are identified as and expected to be experts in the arenas of creating National Monuments and deciding on permits for archaeological investigations, standard assignment of expert roles to public officials called for by the Progressive agenda.

The developing Conservation movement also probably influenced the individuals whose work contributed to enactment of the Antiquities Act. Section 2, in particular, which authorized the President to set aside federal lands for special protection and preservation fit squarely into the Conservation movement's ethos for how public lands should be managed.

Individuals certainly had key roles. Edgar Lee Hewett in the role of middleman was essential in bring together the professional archaeological community in museums, universities, and the Smithsonian, as well as the national archaeological and anthropological organizations, like the Archaeological Institute of America and the American Anthropological Association. John F. Lacey, U.S. Representative from Iowa, and sponsor of the Antiquities Act in the House, was essential. Lacey had been at the center of the legislative effort to create an act to preserve American antiquities since the initial introduction of proposed bills in 1900. He was there at the end, in 1906, on the floor of the House ensuring worrying colleague that the proposed bill did not hand the president carte blanche for setting aside federal lands for preservation alone. Department of the Interior officials, Binger Herrmann and W.A. Richards were essential players who forced the inclusion of the president's general authority to proclaim national monuments from the initial bills of 1900 through to the final act.

Finally, the role of President Theodore Roosevelt also was important. It is unlikely that the Antiquities Act could have been passed without his personal commitment to conservation and progressivism. Of all the, sometimes frenetic, activities that Roosevelt engaged in as president, signing the Antiquities Act seems a small piece. For example, in his elegant history of TR's presidency, Theodore Rex, Edmund Morris mentions the signing of the Antiquities Act in a third of a paragraph (pp. 447-448). Yet, Roosevelt's signing of the Act also has resulted over the past century in the proclamation of nearly 90 National Monuments preserving millions of acres, hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites, and scenic and scientific treasures for all Americans.

What would have happened without it?
Without the Act far less of the public lands in the United States would have been preserved for the benefit and use of generations, like us, who came after the early 20th century. A role for the public sector in archaeological and historic preservation would have been delayed, or might not have developed at all. For archaeological resources, more emphasis on, and possibly more social endorsement of, a primarily commercial value for archaeological artifacts might have become established in the United States.

The final text was very brief.
An interesting observation about the Act itself is its brevity and economy. The statute text is barely over a page in length, a page and a half at most. By contrast, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979 runs to about 13 typed pages and the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, takes up over 60 typed pages. All three laws have made very important contributions to American archaeology, preservation, and society in general. But, the Antiquities Act certainly packs a punch in its concise form.

The Act defines the value of "antiquities" in terms of public benefit and knowledge. If you could go back to 1906, would you alter that in any way? For example, making it clear that descendant communities had a special role of some sort?
I would not change the law for this purpose. National monuments, like other places designated for their national importance are significant to all Americans. Changing to provide for a special benefit to one particular community would run the risk that each atomistic community or ethnic group would campaign for "its" National Monument, or National Park, or National Something Else. Our national-level monuments and parks should be designated, used, and preserved for the benefit of all Americans and future generations.

Notwithstanding my reluctance to amend the Antiquities Act to accommodate the concerns of communities that may have special relationships with the resources in particular national monuments, there are ways that such these concerns are addressed. In fact, given the management policies of both the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, the federal agencies that manage almost all of the National Monuments, descendant communities often have a special role in advising the local managers, including commenting on plans for changes and matters involving the operation of the monument.

In terms of the president's latitude in determining the appropriate size of monuments, was the Act visionary, or just vague?
I think which adjective one uses depends upon one's perspective on how section 2 of the act, which gives the authority to the president to proclaim national monuments has been used. It seems pretty clear from the historical record that Representative Lacey expressed his view of the intent of the law being that the president should use the smallest area necessary to preserve a monument. In making these statements, he was emphasizing the likely small size of monuments in order to convince other Representatives that giving this authority to a president was not going to result in public land being "locked up" and unavailable for settlement or development. On the other hand, few these days would argue with President Roosevelt's use of this authority to preserve the national monuments that today are Grand Canyon National Park and Olympic National Park, the two largest monuments he proclaimed.


Dry Tortugas (Courtesy National Park Service) [LARGER IMAGE]

How can the public participate in the celebration of the Antiquities Act centennial?
The Antiquities Act centennial lasts for all of 2006 and more activities commemorating it are planned. For a listing of events at National Parks, as well as those planned by the Bureau of Land Management and other organizations, visit the Antiquities Act Centennial web site.

Interested persons also are welcome to visit an exhibit about the Antiquities Act now on display at the Department of Interior Museum in the DOI building at 1848 C Street NW, Washington, DC. The exhibit, entitled, "The Antiquities Act of 1906: A Century of Archaeology, Conservation, and Preservation," presents artifacts and historical photographs related to national monuments in the NPS. Department of the Interior Museum, Washington, DC through March 2007. On loan from Montezuma Castle National Monument and Tuzigoot National Monument, a large stone pestle and a small mortar bear witness to the daily lives of the Sinagua people in the hills and valleys surrounding the Verde River over a thousand years ago. From more recent times, ceramic fragments, a bottle, and lead minnie ball provide glimpses into the military and prison life in the late nineteenth century at Fort Jefferson, which is now Dry Tortugas National Park.

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America