Thursday, September 8, 2011

Site Visitation and Etiquette

Many of you are already aware of the principles of Leave No Trace, which describe ways that people can enjoy the outdoors (especially areas like state and national parks) with as little of an impact as possible. The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:
1. Plan ahead and prepare
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
3. Dispose of waste properly
4. Leave what you find
5. Minimize campfire impacts
6. Respect wildlife
7. Be considerate of other visitors.

For more information on these principles, please visit the Leave No Trace website:

Many of you are also aware of site etiquette, which is also generally listed as sets of principles to follow when visiting an archaeological site. The principles in this case vary from agency to agency, but they follow some of the principles of Leave No Trace, particularly: leave what you find. Here are a couple of the agency websites that discuss site etiquette: 

Most principles of site etiquette are just common sense (i.e., take your trash with you, don’t take or move anything at the site, stay on trails, etc.), but others are not. For example, you should only visit a site if you are invited. For most folks, that means one that is open to the public. Sites that are open to the public have special areas where it is safe for the site (and you) to go, as well as special facilities for interpretation and waste disposal. Also, there shouldn’t be any campfires or smoking at archaeological sites. The residues from the smoke may interfere with cetain dating techniques or damage the ruins or rock art.

There are obvious reasons why you should avoid doing other things too. You should avoid removing artifacts or moving them around because the more artifacts that are moved or removed, the less can be learned (also, in most cases of artifact removal, it is theft)! You should avoid climbing on walls of ruins because they could collapse, potentially injuring you and wholly or partially destroying the wall. You should avoid touching rock art so that it doesn’t get damaged over time. However, there are less obvious reasons for taking these steps and precautions. Namely, when you visit an archaeological site, you are visiting a place where someone’s ancestors lived in the past. Around here, most archaeological sites are associated with ancestral Native Americans, but there are some that are not. In any case, you should show respect for the ancestors of whichever group is represented at an archaeological site.

The principles above are often the same as if you were visiting someone’s house. Don’t leave your trash all over Uncle Bob’s house! Don’t move Aunt Sophie’s things around her house or take them home with you! Don’t draw all over Grandma and Grandpa’s artwork or climb all over their walls! You show respect for their things so they’ll let you visit again. In the same way, you show respect for those who used to live at archaeological sites so that both you and others can enjoy them and keep visiting.
Posted by April Carroll, Contract Associate Archaeologist - Archaeology Office

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