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?
Historic Preservation Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
34 Peachtree Street, NW
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
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