Archaeological Site Etiquette Guide


  • Artifacts, in context (where they lie), tell a story.  Once they are moved, a piece of the past is destroyed forever. Digging, removing artifacts, or piling them up changes what can be
    learned from these pieces of the past.
  • Walls are fragile and continually deteriorating. Climbing, sitting or standing on walls can damage them.  Picking up or moving rocks alters the walls forever.
  • Cultural deposits, including the soil in an archaeological site, are important for scientific tests and are used in reconstructing past environments. Please carry out any trash (especially
    organic remains) you may have while visiting a site.
  • Fragile desert plants and soils that are part of archaeological sites are destroyed when you stray from the trail. Please stay on trails…they are there for your protection.
  • Fire destroys prehistoric organic materials, impairs the potential for chronometric dating, and damages or even destroys rock art by covering it with soot.  Absolutely no fires, candles, or smoking should occur at archaeological sites.
  • Oils from even the cleanest hands can cause deterioration of prehistoric drawings and destroy the dating potential for future scientists trying to unravel the meaning of symbols painted and pecked on stone. Please refrain from touching rock art.
  • Graffiti (drawing, painting, scratching and carving) is destructive and can destroy rock art, as well as deface wood and stone buildings. Graffiti destroys rock art and architecture.
  • Pets can damage sites by digging, or depositing their waste in them. Please do not bring pets into archaeological sites.

Camping and Driving
Avoid driving or riding your bicycle through sites; pitching your camp in a site; dismantling historic buildings for firewood or any other use; and camping or making campfires in any historic building.

Archaeological Protection Laws
All archaeological sites on public (federal and state) and tribal lands in Arizona are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and state laws that prohibit digging, removing artifacts, damaging, and/or defacing archaeological resources.  These laws provide for both felony and misdemeanor prosecution with imprisonment and fines.

If you see people vandalizing sites, please report it as soon as possible by calling 1-800-VANDALS.  Obtain as much information about the people without putting yourself in danger.  Do not confront them! They may be dangerous.

By following these simple guidelines, you can help preserve these unique and fragile remnants of our American heritage.  Thanks for your cooperation, and we hope you enjoy visiting archaeological sites in Arizona!

Archaeological sites are non-renewable resources.  Help us preserve America’s cultural heritage!

For more information on site etiquette, becoming a site steward and Arizona's historic places, visit Arizona State Parks State Historic Preservation Office webpage.