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Federal Laws & Artifact Collecting (ARPA & 43CFR7)

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  • Federal Laws & Artifact Collecting (ARPA & 43CFR7)

    The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) & The Protection of Archaeological Resources (43CFR7)

    This information has been supplied in good faith but users should not regard it as authoritative, or assume that there have been no subsequent changes.


    The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) was passed as federal law in the United States in 1979 and has been amended four times – most recently in 1988 (at the time of writing in December 2013). An annotated version of the text (as amended) can be downloaded as a pdf file from the National Park Service (NPS) website here:

    http://www.nps.gov/history/local-law...hrsrcsprot.pdf

    The act governs the excavation of archaeological sites on federal and Indian lands in the United States, and the removal and disposition of archaeological collections from those sites.

    The NPS also provides a technical bulletin on the application of ARPA here:

    http://www.nps.gov/archeology/PUBS/techbr/tch20.htm

    Interestingly, the NPS quotes commercial values of some artifacts, using the Overstreet guide as a reference.

    ARPA also has a companion set of regulations known as “43CFR7” and Part 7 covers “The Protection of Archaeological Resources”. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from the US Government Printing Office (GPO) website here:

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-200...vol1-part7.pdf

    In short, no collecting of archaeological items is allowed on lands owned or controlled by the United States government.

    The specific sections of interest to collectors are in section 6 of ARPA:

    (a) No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on public lands or Indian lands unless such activity is pursuant to a permit issued under section 4 of this Act, a permit referred to in section 4(h)(2) of this Act, or the exemption contained in section 4(g)(1) of this Act.

    (b) No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange any archeological resource if such resource was excavated or removed from public lands or Indian lands in violation of - (1) the prohibition contained in subsection (a) of this section, or (2) any provision, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under any other provision of Federal law.

    (c) No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange, in interstate or foreign commerce, any archaeological resource excavated, removed, sold, purchased, exchanged, transported, or received in violation of any provision,, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under State or local law.

    (d) Any person who knowingly violates, or counsels, procures, solicits, or employs any other person to violate, any prohibition contained in subsection (a), (1), or (c) of this section shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both: Provided, however, That if the commercial or archaeological value of the archaeological resources involved and the cost of restoration and repair of such resources exceeds the sum of $500, such person shall be fined not more than $20,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. In the case of a second or subsequent such violation upon conviction such person shall be fined not more than $100,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

    (e) The prohibitions contained in this section shall take effect on October 31, 1979 [the date of the enactment of this Act].

    (f) Nothing in subsection (b)(1) of this section shall be deemed applicable to any person with respect to any archaeological resource, which was in the lawful possession of such person prior to October 31, 1979.

    (g) Nothing in subsection (d) of this section shall be deemed applicable to any person with respect to the removal of arrowheads located on the surface of the ground.

    So, while it is clear that excavation or removal of an “archaeological resource” from federal lands (as opposed to private land) is not generally permitted, the criminal and civil penalties in subsection (d) may not be enforced on anyone picking up an arrowhead from the surface. Technically, however, taking that arrowhead away with you might still be regarded as “common theft” of government property with a different set of consequences and penalties.

    Many aspects of ARPA have not been fully tested in the US courts and it would therefore be wise not to push the boundaries – especially given that interpretation may vary from state to state.

    Individual state laws and the situations concerning private land are detailed elsewhere within this section of the Information Center.
    Last edited by painshill; 01-31-2016, 08:56 AM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.
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