American archaeology and the conceptualization of preservation : Edgar Lee Hewett and the crafting of the 1906 Antiquities Act
Author(s)Johnson, Adam Fulton
Edgar Lee Hewett and the crafting of the 1906 Antiquities Act
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
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Edgar Lee Hewett, an amateur archaeologist and pedagogue, came to the Southwestern United States in 1891 and was immediately captured by the monumental prehistoric ruins nestled in the winding canyons of the high desert. Concerned about their destruction, over the next fifteen years Hewett worked to protect these antiquities. In 1906, he successfully drafted federal preservation legislation, the Antiquities Act, which protected the ruins of America's deep past from looting and destruction; at the same time, sites were made available to scientific teams and curious citizens. Balancing scientific and popular interests, Hewett's work as a promoter and advocate of America's prehistoric period ignited an historical consciousness of North America's great "civilizations" of the past, establishing a continuity between pre-Columbian settlements and the present American nation. The continuity was largely materially based, as the monumental architecture of the "ancient ones" was considered on par with that of Egypt. Contemporaneous Native Americans, the descendants of the "ancient ones," however, were seen to have an inferior material culture, and their lineage to the past race was questioned. Their place in the historical continuum was cast in the shadow of progress and it was widely thought Amerindians were destined to fade away. Hewett, in crafting the Antiquities Act, facilitated this historical interpretation through the regulation of access to "prehistoric" ruins and the determination of the qualities worthy of preservation, and laid the groundwork for subsequent "historic" preservation in the United States. In the place of American Indians would emerge a great civilization rising from a rich prehistoric past, a United States with a deep history.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 2011.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 123-128).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology