What Are the Laws?
There are many federal and state laws that prohibit, regulate
and condition certain aspects of artifact collecting on federal,
state and private lands. Artifact collecting is not prohibited
outright, but there are many restrictions. As federal, state
and local law enforcement officers become familiar with the laws,
investigations and arrests are increasing.
State Property - To surface collect, metal detect, or dig
on any state property, you must have a permit from the Department
of Natural Resources. State property includes state parks, historic
sites, wildlife management areas, recreation areas, and forests,
as well as state highway rights-of-way, navigable river and stream
bottoms, and the coast out to three miles. Official Code of Georgia
sections (OCGA) dealing with the protection of archaeological materials
include OCGA 12-3-10, OCGA 12-3-52; and OCGA 12-3-80 to 83.
Federal Property - Generally, it is illegal to surface
collect, metal detect, or dig on any federal lands without a federal
permit. Federal lands in Georgia include Corps of Engineers lakes,
U.S. Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Preserves and military
bases. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA)
and the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of
1990 (NAGPRA) deal with the protection of archeological materials
on federal lands.
Other Property - It is legal to surface collect non-burial
artifacts with permission from the landowner. It is illegal to
dig in any way (including metal detector hits) on archeological
sites without written permission of the landowner and notification
to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in advance
of the digging (OCGA 12-3-621). It is illegal to expose, remove,
or otherwise disturb human burials (OCGA 31-21-44), except when
part of a legitimate archeological excavation (OCGA 31-21-6). Otherwise,
if suspected human remains are encountered, they must be protected
from harm and reported to local law enforcement immediately (OCGA
Professional archeologists working in compliance with Section
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act are exempt from some
of the above restrictions, but must obtain landowner permission
and permits to work on state or federal lands.