If you’ve hiked, biked, rafted, or traveled anywhere in Utah, chances are you’ve found ancient ruins and artifacts, also called “archaeological sites”. An archaeological site is anything left by past humans. Sites can be rock art, pueblos, arrowheads, mines, cabins, trails, and much more! Utah has over 90,000 known archaeological sites sharing the past 13,000 years of human history. Unfortunately, many sites are being vandalized. Ancestors of Native Americans lived in these places that continue to have cultural significance today, so it’s important that we all take care of such sites. These three keys will help you enjoy and protect archaeological sites:
Stay safe around archaeology
- Archaeological sites can be dangerous. Sites such as old mines may have open shafts, that may pose danger to falling and critters love to nest in rocks. Keep alert and stay out of dangerous situations.
- Explore buildings and structures; however, if it looks unsafe, assume that is the case. Don’t climb on the fragile walls or try to put rocks back in place. Only professionals should try to rebuild walls, but let someone know if you see a problem. Look out for nails and other sharp objects.
Protect and preserve the past
- Staying on trail protects buried artifacts, and camping in designated spots helps keep archaeological sites tidy.
- If you find something that might be an artifact, you can measure, draw, and take a picture of the artifact,if it’s safe. Just remember to put it back where you found it! When you take an artifact away from where you found it, archaeologists lose the chance to learn more about past people.
- Take pictures or drawings of rock art and historic inscriptions! If you want to make rock art “pop” in your photographs, try using different filters. Art is too fragile to touch, and never use chalk or water on rock art and inscriptions.
- If you find graffiti it’s time to call the professionals! You don’t need to try to fix it (that could be more damaging), just take pictures if you can and report it.
- If you see someone else damaging a site, don’t talk to them yourselves but make sure to tell a ranger, archaeologist, or another agency person.
- If you find an archaeological artifact or site that isn’t well-marked, make sure to tell the person who owns or manages the land. You can email us at the Utah Antiquities Section and we can help connect you with the landowner.
How to learn more or get involved:
– State History maintains a list of archaeological sites that are open to visitation by the public: https://heritage.utah.gov/history/history-maps
– Friends of Cedar Mesa (https://www.friendsofcedarmesa.org/)
– Tread Lightly! Respect & Protect (https://www.treadlightly.org/programs/respect-and-protect/)
– Utah Statewide Archaeological Society (USAS) (http://utaharchaeology.org/)
– Utah Rock Art Research Association (URARA) (https://urara.wildapricot.org/)
– Passport in Time (PIT) (http://www.passportintime.com)