Archaeological sites are the physical remains of past human activity. Wherever people have lived and worked, the land and water may contain evidence of their lives. The prehistoric ancestors of Washington's Indians lived here 12,000 years before the arrival of the first European colonists. They left behind the remains of camps, villages, quarries, and hunting and fishing sites, all scattered across Washington beneath the visible landscape. Traces of structures built since settlement such as the foundations of 19th-century gristmills, stone walls of deserted farmsteads, and abandoned cemeteries all contain valuable information about the lives of the people who lived before we did.
These clues, tangible links to our past, are often invisible from the surface. Traces of earlier occupation may lie under parking lots, buildings, or plowed fields and are only discovered through archaeological survey. As such, archaeological sites scattered across the state represent a tangible link to our past. Because most sites in Washington are privately owned they will be preserved through the generosity of private landowners, or not at all.
All archaeological sites are fragile and irreplaceable; they cannot be rebuilt or remade. In Washington, archaeological sites are disappearing at an alarming rate, and unless landowners take positive steps to preserve and manage these properties, valuable pieces of history will be lost forever. It is important that we all actively participate in the preservation and management of Washington's archaeological heritage.
Through the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), landowners are encouraged to preserve, protect, and interpret significant archaeological resources on their property. State archaeologists can provide information about the probable location of archaeological sites and can advise and assist landowners in evaluating and developing alternatives to preserve archaeological sites.
Archaeological sites discovered through survey that meet certain criteria for significance and integrity can be listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register, the nation’s and state’s lists of significant sites. Registration informs individuals and localities of important resources that they may wish to consider in private and community land use decisions.
With the help of DAHP a site stewardship plan can be developed to provide specific guidance and recommendations to a landowner with archaeological sites on his or her property. The plan assists the landowner in preserving, protecting, and interpreting archaeological sites in his or her care. The success of the plan depends solely on the participation and commitment of landowners.
Don't conduct any earth moving or construction in the immediate vicinity of your site.
Archaeological sites are fragile and nonrenewable. Proper etiquette is essential when visiting ancient sites. Appreciate the site and contemplate times long past, but please leave the site undisturbed for others to enjoy. Once damaged, the secrets an archaeological site can tell us, are lost forever.
Please take a few moments to read and review these following guidelines before you visit an archaeological site. As you approach an archaeological site, stop for a moment and think about how you can minimize the impact of your visit to the site.