Prehistoric fixed relics and monuments were declared under government protection in Sweden as early as 1666. The clergy were ordered to provide descriptions of interesting archaeological and geological sites within their parishes. The law was extended a few decades later to also include any valuable metal objects found in the ground. Legislation was again revised in the 18th century, and the order on monument preservation in the Grand Duchy of Finland was issued in 1883. This order was also the starting point for the current Antiquities Act issued in 1963. The act covers ancient barrows, burial grounds, habitations, rock paintings, sacrificial stones and other places of worship, hill forts, and the ruins of significant buildings. According to the Antiquities Act, any object at least a hundred years old with its owner unknown must be delivered to the National Board of Antiquities. Shipwrecks a hundred years or older found in the sea or other waterway are also protected.

Preservation of archaeological cultural heritage is the responsibility of the Department of Archaeology and the Department of Monuments and Sites of the National Board of Antiquities, together with certain provincial museums.