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H.R. 11016, A Bill for the preservation of American Antiquities (Antiquities Act), March 12, 1906

In 1906 Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, introduced protective legislation for antiquities drafted by archaeologist Edgar L. Hewett. Congress enacted the bill, extending its scope to preserve other natural and historical sites as well. The Antiquities Act authorized the president to protect such places by declaring them national monuments.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 11016, A Bill for the preservation of American Antiquities (Antiquities Act), March 12, 1906

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