Law Logo



(An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities)


Public Law 59-209
34 Stat. 225
Title 16 of the U.S.Code, Sections 431-433

Section 1
This section provides penalties for inappropriately excavating, damaging, or destroying historic ruins, artifacts, or any other object of antiquity.

Section 2
This section authorizes the President of the United States to unilaterally (National Parks require congressional action) set aside areas of public land as National Monuments to preserve cultural and scientific treasures. It specifies that the parcels of land should be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Section 3
This section outlines the rules and regulations to be followed when excavating, examining, or gathering historical artifacts from a national monument. It describes who may do so, under what conditions, and what is to be done with the materials collected.

Section 4
This section gives authority to federal agencies to administer the provisions of the Act.


In the latter part of the nineteenth century, significant numbers of individuals started collecting historic artifacts from abandoned Native American settlements in the southwestern part of the United States. Preservationists, such as anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett, urged the U.S. government to protect these fragile archeological sites against looting and vandalism. Congressman John F. Lacey, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, travelled to the American Southwest with Hewett to witness the destruction of these sites. Lacey’s report to Congress led to the the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. It was the first legislation designed to protect and preserve historic landmarks, cultural sites, and objects of scientific interest within the United States.

Amendments to the law have included:
1950: Required Congressional approval for the addition or expansion of National Monuments in Wyoming.
12/2/1980: Required Congressional approval for designations of greater than 5,000 acres in Alaska.

The Antiquities Act was used by President William Howard Taft on July 31, 1909 to designate 16,000 acres as the Mukuntuweap National Monument (Proclamation #877; 36 Stat. 2498). The Act was used again on March 18, 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson to expand the Monument to 76,800 acres and redesignate it Zion National Monument (Proclamation #1435; 40 Stat. 1760). Then on November 19, 1919, Congress redesignated Zion National Monument as Zion National Park.

The Antiquities Act was used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 22, 1937 to designate 49,150 acres in the Kolob area as the Zion National Monument (name reused) (Proclamation #2221; 50 Stat. 1809). It remained that way until being incorporated into Zion National Park by Congress on July 11, 1956.


Wikipedia article on the Antiquities Act

Antiquities Act of 1906
by the National Park Service (NPS)

16 U.S. Code § 431 - National monuments; reservation of lands; relinquishment of private claims
by the Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute (LII)

Antiquities Act of 1906
by Dustin Monroe