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Archaeological Site Stewardship

by Kraig Nelson, DFLT Docent and Preserve Steward


Arizona contains some of the nation’s greatest archaeological sites!  Professor Stephen Plog author of Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest, states, “To many prehistorians, the Southwest is …an archaeological Garden of Eden…thousands of sites have been excavated…preservation is excellent because of the arid environment….”  Garry Contley, archaeologist for the Arizona Bureau of Native American Affairs, sadly informs us there are two site lootings each day in Arizona.  Let’s examine some common sense site-etiquette and legal ramifications associated with illegal behavior at our cherished archaeological sites.


Here are fundamental site behavior requirements if you visit an archaeological site:


  • don’t remove anything; if an item is removed for observation, replace in the same location (local archaeologist Mary Kearney, suggests hiding the artifact nearby if possible).

  • don’t touch petroglyphs or pictographs, as hand oils can cause deterioration.

  • don’t park in close proximity to the site as the surrounding area may include prehistoric villages, food processing or other cultural activities.

  • don’t make “rubbings.” 

  • don’t climb on walls or other structures.

  • anything carried in needs to be carried out, especially organic waste.

  • stay on trails if they exist.

  • no fires, candles, or smoking.

  • no pets.

  • do not camp at the site.

  • site locations may be protected – if so, do not disclose. 


Irresponsible and illegal site behavior has serious criminal and potential civil consequences, including forfeiture of vehicle, fines of $10,000 and up, and one or more years in jail.  Our treasured and fragile archaeological sites are non-renewable, and must be respected, protected and revered.  Please help us conserve these special places!  

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