Council on American Indian Concerns Banner Graphic



Artifact Buying, Selling and Trading

What is legal and what is not?
It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, import or export known American Indian burial objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony (OCGA 12-3-622). Fines are up to $500 per object. It is illegal to buy, trade, or sell any portion of human remains (OCGA 16-12-160 and OCGA 31-21-41).

What is a burial object? How do I know if something is a burial object?
This is a critical question at the heart of most burial protection laws. Unfortunately, it is not easy to answer. Certainly, any object known to have come from a burial or to have been associated with a burial is a burial object. However, for most objects in private collections, the exact locations where they were found are unknown. A precise definition of what is a burial object will probably require some court decisions. Based on archeological excavations, we can tentatively classify objects into the following two categories:

Probable Native American burial objects:
  • Copper artifacts
  • Shell Gorgets
  • Monolithic axes
  • Ear spools
  • Large, fine blades
  • Burial urns
  • Ornate artifacts
  • Miniature pots
  • Pipes
  • Beads

Usually not burial objects:
  • Arrowheads
  • Pottery shards
  • Chipped stone tools
  • Soapstone shards
  • Soapstone slabs
  • Grinding stones

Can it be a burial object if I find it on the surface?
Yes. Burial objects don’t have to have been found in a burial. Burial objects get washed out or plowed up from burials and are then found on the surface. Any object that ever was in a burial is a burial object.

What are sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony?
These are communal, ceremonial objects used by Indians in religious practices or owned by the group for its cultural significance. These terms mainly apply to western tribes and include totems, sacred bundles and other items rarely found in the southeast.


To view and print the PDF documents on this site, the FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader is required. Click on the Adobe logo below to download it.

Get Acrobat Reader

Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns
c/o Historic Preservation Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
2610 GA Hwy 155, SW, Stockbridge, GA 30281
Telephone: 770.389.7864
Copyright © by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved.