American Antiquities Act

(1906)

On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the American Antiquities Act—or more formally, An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities. This law gave the president the authority to issue executive orders to restrict the use of public lands owned by the federal government, primarily with the purpose of protecting these lands from “pot hunters,” or private collectors who were looting public lands of prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts. Throughout the late nineteenth century, archeologists and historians were becoming increasingly concerned about looting and vandalism at these sites. The more immediate impetus behind the act was a study conducted by Iowa congressman John F. Lacey and the renowned anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett, who traveled to the American Southwest to study the archeological resources of the region and the extent of the problem caused by pot hunters. Hewett issued his report in 1904.


The purpose of the act was to enable the...

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Theodore Roosevelt (Library of Congress)

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