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View of Tower Looking Northeast . . . , Casa Grande, photograph by John P. O’Neil for the Historic American Buildings Survey, March 2, 1937

Sonoran Desert people constructed Casa Grande in Arizona in the 1300s and abandoned it for unknown reasons by 1450. It was part of a large settlement, but its original purpose remains a mystery. Congress first authorized repairs to the Casa Grande ruins in 1889. Under the Antiquities Act, President Woodrow Wilson declared Casa Grande a national monument in 1918.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

View of Tower Looking Northeast . . . , Casa Grande, photograph by John P. O’Neil for the Historic American Buildings Survey, March 2, 1937

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