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The Casa Grande, photograph by the National Park Service, 2004

Case Grande (big house) derives its name from a seventeenth-century Spanish missionary’s description of the immense, four-story building. Constructed of caliche, a natural cement-like compound, it is subject to environmental degradation. The National Park Service, which Congress created in 1916 to maintain federal parks and monuments, erected a metal canopy to protect Casa Grande from the elements.

National Park Service

The Casa Grande, photograph by the National Park Service, 2004

Protecting American Antiquities

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first U.S. law to provide general protection for cultural and natural resources on federal lands. Previously Congress used specific acts to create national parks and other protected areas. Archaeologists anxious to prevent looting of American Indian relics urged Congress to pass broader protective legislation. Congress did so, empowering the president to move quickly to save threatened archaeological, historic, or natural sites. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, one of North America’s largest prehistoric structures, has been preserved under the Antiquities Act since 1918.

Every cliff dwelling, every prehistoric tower, communal house, shrine and burial ground is an object which contributes something to the advancement of knowledge and hence is worthy of preservation.

Edgar L. Hewett, Circular Relating to Historic and Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest and Their Preservation, 1904