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"Because the Past is our Common Destiny" poster, from a painting by Martin Pate, courtesy of Southeast Archaeological Center, NPS

from a painting by Martin Pate, courtesy of the Southeast Archaeological Center, NPS


   We are witnessing a tremendous increase in the commercialization of the human prehistoric and historic record.

   Archaeological sites are being looted to the extent that if something is not done soon to curb this destruction, there will be little of our collective past left for future Americans.



      Artifacts are the tangible evidence of our past:  of who was here, how they lived, what happened.  In the right hands, they provide a window into history. But understanding the past requires more than the artifact itself.  It requires its surroundings and its relationship to other artifacts and to the landscape.

     Removing artifacts removes them from the rest of the story.  It often destroys the historic landscape, which has its own intrinsic value.  It often destroys other artifacts and clues which are regarded by the untrained as worthless.

     Artifacts belong in their historic setting.  They belong to all of us.   No one person has the moral right to take them. 

    Enjoy but do not destroy our American heritage!



America’s Hidden Battlefields:  Protecting the Archaeological Story, American Battlefield Protection Program, National Park Service

Strategies for Protecting Archaeological Sites on Private Lands, Historic Preservation Planning Programming, National Park Service

Historic Relic Hunters could dig themselves into big troubleDaily Press, Newport News, Va.

Ancient Site in Indiana Plundered, Metareligion.com

Archaeological collection discovered after relic hunter's death, by Jan Richter, Cesky rozhlas, January 1, 2008


For Kids

Ask Dr. Dirt - Protecting the Past: Give a Hoot, Don’t Loot! University of Texas at Austin

For Teachers

Artifact Ethics N.C. Curriculum

Protecting the Past:  Give a Hoot—Don’t Loot! University of Texas at Austin


archaeology reveals soil profile
From 450-year-old wood, archaeologists can determine the kind of
tree used, time of year the structure was built, tools used, and
building methods.

Relic hunting is illegal:

- On federal land
- On state owned land, in many states (including North Carolina)
- On private property, without the landowner's permission

Most relic hunting is done illegally.

Even relic hunting which is legal is destructive!

What to do

If you find artifacts, leave them undisturbed and report them.  In North Carolina, notify the State Archaeology Office or staff of the state or national park

If you see illegal relic-hunting, notify your local Sheriff's office:

Rowan County NC 704-636-1011

Davidson County NC  336-242-2100

What you can do  American Battlefield Protection Program, National Park Service



Click here  for
print-your-own signs



Elements of this web page provided courtesy of the Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service.  Poster image derived from 'Because the Past is our Common Destiny' oil painting by Martin Pate, courtesy of and produced by the Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service.