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Collecting Artifacts from the Surface

Is it legal to collect artifacts?
Yes, with some restrictions. It is legal to collect artifacts from the surface of private property, with permission of the landowner (OCGA 12-3-621[a][1]). Be sure not to trespass.

What are the restrictions?
One cannot collect human skeletal remains or burial objects (OCGA 12-3-621[a][1]). Any discovery or exposure of human remains must be reported to a local law enforcement office (OCGA 31-21-6[a]).

Is it ever legal to surface collect artifacts on federal lands?
No, unless you are a professional researcher (archeologist) working for a federal agency or you have an ARPA permit to collect . However, a provision of ARPA allows the collection of arrowheads from the surface. To be sure, check with the agency managing the land you want to collect.

Is it ever legal to surface collect on state lands?
No, unless you are a professional researcher (archeologist) working for a state agency or you have a state permit to collect artifacts (OCGA 12-3-52[a][c]).

Is it ever legal to metal detect for artifacts?
Yes, with restrictions. You cannot metal detect on state or federal lands without a permit. For archaeological or historical sites on private property, you must have the landowner's written permission and have notified the Georgia Department of Natural Resources before the collecting begins.

Is my private artifact collection legal? Can it be confiscated? Can I display it publicly?
Generally, it is legal to own and display an Indian artifact collection. It is illegal to display any portion of the skeleton of an Indian (OCGA 31-21-45[a]) and it is illegal to buy, sell and trade, import, or export Indian burial, sacred, or cultural objects (OCGA 12-3-622[a]).

Is it illegal to own skeletal remains?
It is unlawful to receive, retain, dispose of, or possess any bodily part of a human knowing it to have been removed unlawfully (OCGA 31-21-44[b]). It is illegal to wantonly or maliciously excavate or disturb a burial (OCGA 31-21-44[a]), and it is illegal to display Indian remains in public (OCGA 31-21-45[a]).

Is it legal to own burial objects?
It is legal for individuals (not museums) to own burial objects that were obtained legally, that is, those that were obtained by not violating laws against digging on sites, collecting on private lands or disturbing graves.

 

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Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns
c/o Historic Preservation Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
254 Washington Street SW, Ground Floor, Atlanta, GA 30334
Telephone: 404-651-8630 - Fax: 404-657-1368
Copyright © 2013 by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved.