Spring 2016: By Margaret Shakespeare

By the turn of the 20th century the secret was out. Maverick rancher and outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt knew it. The Swedish archaeologist Gustaf N. A. Nordenskiöld knew it. Adventurers, photographers, historians, and others knew it, too. The vast and varied chunk of North America to which the United States laid claim contained monumental, irreplaceable natural and cultural assets that had survived in some cases for millennia.
Yellowstone National Park became the first extraordinary place in the world to be set aside as a national park in 1872. That bright idea had legs, and Yosemite, Sequoia, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Mount Rainier, among others, became parks before 1900. By the time 35 units had been dedicated, another bright idea—to unify them in a single system—arose. And a century ago President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act of 1916, creating the National Park Service (NPS).
A decade earlier President Theodore Roosevelt had signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, which established the first far-reaching legal protection for cultural and natural materials on public lands, as well as guidelines for excavating and managing archaeological sites, artifacts and associated items, and disseminating information from scientific studies to the public.
“The Antiquities Act was the genesis of archaeology in national parks,” says Francis McManamon, the executive director of the Center for Digital Antiquity at Arizona State University and former chief archaeologist at the NPS. In 1921, archaeologist Jesse Nusbaum was named superintendent of Mesa Verde. Nusbaum, was the first archaeologist hired by the NPS. Along with A. V. Kidder, he was involved in the early survey and documentation of sites in Mesa Verde in 1907 and 1908.

Summary. Read More in our Spring 2016 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 1. Browse Content of Spring 2016 Issue.

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