NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 9, 2004

Western real-estate developer Archie Hanson has found a way to preserve the past while developing for the future in what he calls "America's first archaeological subdivision."

Located on 1,200 acres in Cortez, Colorado, Indian Camp Ranch consists of several 35 acre lots and over 200 archaeological sites from the Anasazi tribe.

A purchaser can build a home on his land, and enjoy the unusual amenity of a backyard archeological dig. The subdivision is governed by a neighborhood covenant controlling excavations and requiring preservation of artifacts.

Observers say that privatized archeology has advantages for both residents and researchers:

  • Residents will receive the help of a trained archaeologist in excavating their land, and are permitted to keep and display found artifacts in their home.
  • When homeowners die or move, their artifacts will be donated to a planned museum.
  • Since privately owned land is exempt from the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires federally funded museums or digs on public land to return human remains or sacred objects to the original tribe or descendents, Hanson says he will provide artifacts to researchers for DNA study and use of new scientific technology.
  • Instead of digging small areas and reburying them, as many archaeologists now do, artifacts will be put on display for the public.

The concept could provide an economical way for private landowners to preserve Native American ruins, which are often damaged by looters. For example, a rancher in Utah recently revealed thousands of acres of ruins on his land he had kept hidden for 50 years. Eventually unable to care for his land, he sold the ranch to the Land for Public Trust in 2001.

Sources: Andrew Curry, "Anasazi in the Backyard," Archaeology, July/August 2004; Kirk Johnson, "Where Time Stood Still," Star-Telegram, July 1, 2004.

For Archaeology article abstract:


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