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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 31-21-6).

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.

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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.