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Archaeology, Mining and the Law

R. Gwinn Vivian, Proceedings of 22nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1976)

When Francisco Vazquez de Coronado marched north from Compostela, Mexico into what is now the Southwestern United States in February 1540, he sought not only to develop new mining locations but to record information on the present and past peoples of the northern provinces as well. In his reports to the Viceroy of Mexico and the King of Spain he identified potential mining localities and also described the native peoples and the remains of the ancient ruins of these peoples that he encountered on his travels.

Public and governmental interest in new mineral discoveries and new archaeological finds has continued to the present. Though the average person is often more directly affected by mineral rather than archaeological discoveries, knowledge of the past has always assumed a particular importance for man. As a result, evidence of historic and prehistoric lifeways and the interpretation of this evidence increasingly has become a basic resource for the American public. Because this resource relates to man and the systems that man has developed for livingsystems that anthropologists have termed culturesarchaeologists have come to refer to their data base as cultural resources.