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Digging for Artifacts

Is it legal to dig for artifacts?
On private land it is legal to dig for artifacts if you have written permission of the landowner and have notified the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in writing five business days before you begin digging. It is generally illegal to dig human burials (OCGA 31-21-6[a]) and it is illegal to dig on state and federal land without appropriate permits.

How do I notify the Department of Natural Resources?
Write to:

Archaeology
Historic Preservation Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
34 Peachtree Street, NW
Suite 1600
Atlanta, GA  30303

How do I know if I have encountered a burial?
Indian burials vary greatly and can be difficult to recognize. Burials are often in shallow pits and are often marked by small bone fragments and associated burial objects, such as pots, beads, pipes, and ornate artifacts. However, unless careful scientific excavation is employed, it will be difficult to recognize many burials.

What do I do if I think I have encountered a burial?
STOP DIGGING immediately, protect the burial from harm, and notify local law enforcement instantly. Law enforcement will notify the local government and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who will formulate a plan to protect the burial.

Do I get in trouble if I encounter a burial?
It is unlawful for anyone other than those legally authorized to knowingly disturb or expose buried human remains. If convicted of the felony of illegally disturbing a burial, you could be sentenced to one to five years in prison and fined (OCGA 31-21-44). Inadvertent disturbance of a burial is not subject to this penalty if local law enforcement is notified immediately. Since many archeological sites contain burials, it may be difficult to convince authorities that while digging on a site, you “inadvertently” encountered a burial. The legally safest and most ethical policy is to simply not dig and leave the digging to trained archeologists.

Can I dig on a Civil War site?
On federal or state lands or water bottoms you must have a permit to dig. On private land, Civil War historic or archeological sites are protected by law OCGA 12-3-621(a). To dig there, you must have written permission of the landowner, and have notified the Georgia Department of Natural Resources five business days in advance.

 

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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.