Every year beginning around Spring Break, Utah kicks off the annual “archaeological vandalism” season with a bang. In 2021, we had at least two instances of archaeological resource crime in Utah hit the national press, and many more lower-profile instances of damage also occurred. Archaeological resources never be replaced once they are damaged. By our count, nearly one third of all archaeological sites have some damage to them that has occurred in the modern period. Researchers, descendant communities, local residents, recreation operators and more all have an interest in protecting and preserving archaeological sites.
The Utah State Historic Preservation Office’s campaign to Stop Archaeological Vandalism emphasizes education on outdoor etiquette, positive reinforcement, and pro-social norms to help people make good decisions about how to conduct themselves on archaeological sites. One of the most potent tools in this toolkit is a six-week education series that starts with participants taking a Pledge to Protect the Past.