While many Utahns can claim an ancestral heritage with the early Mormon pioneers, Brigham Young and Co. were far from the first to call Utah home. Others lived in the area much earlier.

Utah - which is observing Archaeology Week - is unquestionably one of the nation's richest states in terms of archaeological resources. There are literally tens of thousands of Indian ruins and ancient rock art panels, not to mention a rich and colorful pioneer heritage still visible on the rural landscape.Through decades of research by archaeologists, an increasingly detailed picture of ancient Utah is emerging - a picture of diverse peoples who cultivated the desert soils, built remarkable stone structures and carved and painted an astounding legacy on canyon walls throughout the state.

Tragically, this legacy remains under continued attack by thoughtless vandals or thieves who pillage the ancient sites for a few pots or arrowheads to grace their fireplace mantel. Despite stiff fines and prison terms, pot hunting is and probably always will be a problem.

But through the laudable education efforts of professional and amateur archaeologists across the state, perhaps pot hunting will be less of a problem in future generations. And as children are raised with an appreciation for the state's cultural past, perhaps they too will protect it for their children.

Utahns young and old should take the time to learn more about the Anasazi, the Fremont, the Shoshone and the other prehistoric cultures that once thrived in Utah.

And as more Utahns learn about those cultures and puzzle over the intriguing mysteries associated with them, then they too will want to protect the fragile remains.

Perhaps then the fascinating archaeology of Utah will be preserved for future generations to also enjoy.