What to Know When Visiting an Archaeological Site

Sep 27, 2019

If you hear an archaeologist talk about site etiquette, it means following guidelines that respect fragile archaeological sites and save the past for the future. National Public Lands Day is September 28, and many archaeological and heritage sites are in national parks or on public lands. By following the tips below, you can enjoy your visit and help preserve the past for the future. SAA's site etiquette tips [PDF 1.1 MB] are also available for download. 

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Archaeology is everywhere. Everywhere people have lived, there are historic and cultural sites. At home or traveling to other communities, be respectful of the people and history there.

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Be a good steward of the past. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect archaeological sites for the future. If you find a structure or artifact, please leave it in place. You can record the location, and alert an archaeologist.

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Remember to leave artifacts where they are. Archaeological sites tell the stories of past people’s lives. Moving artifacts takes away from those stories. Admire, draw, or photograph them instead.

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Be careful where you walk at an archaeological site. Stepping, leaning, sitting, or climbing on structures could damage them. Pay close attention to signs and paths in parks or heritage areas.

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Think about what you leave behind. Leaving your own materials at archaeological sites could spoil the experience for others. Trash, food, and campfires can contaminate sites, making it harder to learn about the past.