Laws Pertaining to the Looting of Archaeological Sites

Brackets [] encompass inserted text meant to clarify the wording, but are not words in the law. These citations are not legally binding and are only for reference. Citations may not be complete.

Federal Laws

Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470)

–an Act to protect archaeological resource on public lands and Indian lands, and for other purposes.

Sec. 6. (a) No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resources located on public lands or Indian lands unless such activity is pursuant to a permit…, or the exemption [for Indians on their own tribal lands].

(b) No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange any archaeological resource if such resource was excavated or removed from public lands or Indian lands in violation of–

(1) the prohibition contained in subsection (a), or

(2) any provision, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under any other provision of Federal law.

(c) No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange, in interstate of foreign commerce, any archaeological resource excavated, removed, sold, purchased, exchanged, transported, or received in violation of any provision, rule, regulation, ordinance, or permit in effect under State or local law.

(d) Any person who knowingly violates or counsels, procures, solicits, or employs any other person to violate, any prohibition contained in subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both: Provided, however, That if the commercial or archaeological value of the archaeological resources involved and the cost of restoration and repair of such resources exceeds the sum of $500 such person shall be fined not more than $20,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Georgia State Laws

You can read Georgia code sections at any county courthouse. Usually the Clerk of the Court can help you find and photocopy particular code sections.

12-3-10 (GCA § 43-9915)

Violations relating to use and occupancy of state parks and historic sites.

(c) It shall be unlawful for any person, in any manner, to mark on, deface, injure, displace, dig, excavate, remove, or construct on any real or personal property on any park, historic site, or recreational area, except when done with special written permission granted by the commissioner of natural resources of his authorize representative.

12-3-52 (GCA § 40-813a)

Protection, preservation and investigation of archaeological sites, antiquities and artifacts on state property.

(a) The State of Georgia, acting through the department [of Natural Resources] and its authorized officers and employees, reserves to itself the exclusive right and privilege of exploring, excavating, or surveying all prehistoric and historic sites, ruins, artifacts, treasure [accumulated or hidden wealth in the form of valuables as money or jewels], and treasure-trove [silver or gold, as in the form of bullion, plate, or money, found hidden, the ownership of which is unknown], and other similar sites and objects found on all lands owned or controlled by the state, provided that this reservation shall not apply to property under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

(b) All findings of such ruins, artifacts, treasure, treasure-trove, and other similar sites and objects shall be reported to the department within two days, Saturdays, Sunday s, and legal holidays excluded, after being found.

(c) The department is authorized to grant permits to or enter into contractual agreements with recognized scientific institutions or qualified individuals to conduct field archeological research or salvage archeology through data recovery on such state properties if, in the opinion of the department, conditions or situations warrant such arrangements or agreements. …All such information and archaeologically significant objects derived from archaeological research conducted on state land shall be utilized solely for scientific or public educational purposes and shall remain the property of the state with the exception of those items required to be repatriated…. In addition, the State of Georgia urges that all archeological research conducted on privately owned land within the boundaries of the state be likewise undertaken solely by recognized scientific institutions or qualified individuals.

12-3-54 (GCA § 40-9910)

Violations relating to protection, preservation and investigation of archaeological sites, antiquities and artifacts on state properties.

Any person who intentionally violates Code Section 12-3-52 or who intentionally defaces, injures, destroys, displaces, or removes an object or site of archaeological or historical value located on areas as designated in Code Section 12-3-52 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

12-3-80 (GCA § 40-815a)

Submerged cultural resources; definition; title to.

As used in this part, the term “submerged cultural resources” means all prehistoric and historic sites, ruins, artifacts, treasure, treasure-trove, and shipwrecks or vessels and their cargo or tackle which have remained on the bottom for more than 50 years, and similar sites and objects found in the Atlantic Ocean within the three-mile territorial limit of the state or within its navigable waters. Title to, and the exclusive right to regulate the investigating, surveying, and recovery of, all such submerged cultural resources is declared to be in the State of Georgia; provided, however, that the Board of Natural Resources may determine and provide by rule that certain submerged cultural resources are of not cultural or economic value to the State of Georgia such that items or areas so designated are not subject to the provisions of this part, including any permit requirements of Code Section 12-3-82.

12-3-82 (GCA § 40-817a)

Submerged cultural resources; permits to conduct exploration, survey, or recovery operations.

(a) Any person desiring to conduct investigation, survey, or recovery operations, in the course of which any part of a submerged cultural resource may be endangered, removed, displace, or destroyed, shall first make application to the department for a permit to conduct such operations. The applicant shall submit a detailed plan outlining the location, objectives, scope, methods, plans for the preservation and storage of any submerged cultural resources to be recovered, and such other information about its proposed operation as the department may require. The applicant shall also submit the name of the professional archeologist who will supervise or conduct the operation.

(b) If the department determines that the public interest and the preservation and protection of the submerged cultural resource will be served by allowing the operation for which a permit is sought, the department shall grant a permit subject to such terms and conditions as the department deems appropriate for the protection of the public interest and the preservation and protection of the submerged cultural resource. No permits shall be issued allowing the permittee to retain any recovered submerged cultural resources, or portion, thereof, unless the department determines the resources to be retained are of no significant historical, archeological, or monetary value or are of such limited historical, archeological, or monetary value as to be reasonable compensation for the efforts of the permittee in furthering the public interest through the investigation, survey, protection, preservation, or recovery of other related underwater cultural resources.

12-3-83 (GCA § 40-818a)

Submerged cultural resources; permit violations.

Any person who violates this part by failing to obtain a required permit or who intentionally defaces, injures, destroys, displaces, or removes any underwater cultural resource or portion thereof in any manner not in accordance with a permit issued by the department shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

12-3-620 (GCA § 43-5601)

Article 9: Protection of Archeological, Aboriginal, Prehistoric, and Historic Sites: Definitions.

As used in this article, the term:

(1) “American Indian” means an individual who is a member of a nation, tribe, band, group, or community that was indigenous to Georgia; is a descendent of persons named as American Indians in the Georgia Senate Bill 89, enacted during the legislative session of 1839…or is a descendant of persons included in the United States Indian Claims Commission, Docket 21, 1962, and those sequel dockets pertaining to the Creek Nation east of the Mississippi.

(2) “Burial object” means an object that, as part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, is reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains either at the time of death or later. Such term includes any item defined in paragraph (4) of Code Section 36-72-2 and may also include but not be limited to urns,; whole or broken ceramic, metal, or glass vessels, chipped stone tools; ground stone tools; worked bone and shell items; clothing; medals; buttons; jewelry; firearms; edged weapons and the caskets or containers for the human remains.

12-3-621 (GCA § 43-5602)

Disturbance of or damage to archeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic sites prohibited; penalty.

(GCA § 43-9923) Violations relating to disturbance of or damage to archeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic sites.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person or entity not operating under the provisions of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended, or the express written permission of the owner willfully or knowingly to:

(1) Dig, probe, break, crack, carve upon, write upon, burn, or otherwise mark upon, remove, or in any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar, or harm the structures, features, surfaces, or contents of the archeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic sites; provided, however, that except for human remains and burial objects, this paragraph shall not apply to the collecting of artifacts exposed on the surface;

(2) Disturb or alter in any manner the prevailing condition of any archaeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic site; provided, however, that expect for human remains and burial objects, this paragraph shall not apply to the collecting of artifacts exposed on the surface;

(3) Break, force, tamper with, otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door, or other obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any area containing an archaeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic site or artifacts, even though entrance thereto may not be gained; or

(4) Enter an archeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic site posted against trespassing or site with a lock, gate, door or other obstruction designed to control or prevent access to the site.

(b) When the surface of any archeological, aboriginal, prehistoric, or historic site is disturbed by a person not operating under the provisions of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended, for the purpose of investigating the site or discovering artifacts with the written permission of the landowner, such person shall notify the department in writing at least five business days before beginning any such investigation or disturbance. The department shall immediately notify the Council on American Indian Concerns created by Code Section 44-12-280 of any such investigation that might involve American Indian human remains or burial objects. The department shall make available to the council any information pertaining to investigations conducted pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended.

(c) Any person who violates any provisions of subsection (a) of this Code Section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

12-3-622 (GCA § 43-5603)

Traffic in burial objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony prohibited; penalty.

(GCA § 43-9924) Violations relating to traffic in burial objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony.

(a) After December 1, 1992, it shall be unlawful for any person to buy, sell, trade, import, or export for purposes of buying, selling, or trading for profit any American Indian burial object, sacred object, or object of cultural patrimony, with knowledge that the object is an American Indian burial or sacred object or an object of cultural patrimony.

(b) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code Section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, may be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.00 for each burial object, sacred object, or object of cultural patrimony involved in such violation.

12-16-2 (GCA § 43-5502)

Environmental Policy Act: legislative findings.

The General Assembly finds that:

(1) The protection and preservation of Georgia’s diverse environment is necessary for the maintenance of the public health and welfare and the continued viability of the economy of the state and is a matter of the highest public priority;

(2) State agencies should conduct their affairs with an awareness that they are stewards of the air, land, water, plants, animals, and environmental, historical, and cultural resources.

12-16-3 (GCA § 43-5503)

Georgia Environmental Policy Act: definitions.

As used in this chapter, the term:

(1) “A proposed governmental action which may significantly adversely affect the quality of the environment” means a project proposed to be undertaken by a government agency or agencies, for which it is probable to expect a significant adverse impact on the natural environment, including the state’s air, land, water, plants, animals, historical sites or buildings, or cultural resources. Such actions shall not include: (A) emergency measures undertaken in response to an immediate threat to public health or safety; or (B) activities in which government agency participation is ministerial in nature, involving no exercise of discretion on the part of the government agency.

(6) “Land-disturbing activity” means scraping, plowing, clearing, dredging, grading, excavating, transporting, or filling of land or placement of any structure or impervious surface, dame, obstruction, or deposit or placement of or alteration to any structure on or eligible for the Georgia Register of Historic Places; provided, however, that agricultural practices involving the establishment, cultivation, or harvesting of products of the field or orchard; the preparation and planting of pasture land; farm ponds; dairy operations; livestock and poultry management practices; and forestry land management practices, including harvesting of less than five acres of trees over two inches in diameter at breast height, are excluded from the definition of land-disturbing activity.

(7) “Proposed environmental action” means any proposed land-disturbing activity by a government agency or funded by a grant from a government agency, any proposed sale or exchange of more than five acres of state owned land, or any proposed harvesting of five acres or more of trees over two inches in diameter at breast height, but the term prposed governemntal action does not include among other things, the following:

(A) Any action or undertaking of a nongovernmental entity, even if that action or undertaking requires a permit, license, or other approval by a government agency;…

12-16-4 (GCA § 43-5504)

Environmental effects report; publication of notice.

(a) The responsible official of the government agency shall determine if a proposed governmental action is a proposed governmental action which may significantly adversely affect the quality of the environment. If the responsible official determines that the proposed governmental action is a proposed governmental action which may significantly adversely affect the quality of the environment, the government agency responsible for such a project shall prepare an environmental effects report including, but not limited to, a discussion of:

(1) The environmental impact of the proposed governmental action;

(2) Alternatives to the proposed governmental action, including no action;

(3) Any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided if the proposed governmental action is undertaken;

(4) Mitigation measures proposed to avoid or minimize the adverse impact of the proposed environmental action;

(5) The relationship between the value of the short-term uses of the environment involved in the proposed governmental action and the maintenance and enhancement of its long-term value;

(6) The effect of the proposed governmental action on the quality and quantity of water supply;

(7) The effect of the proposed governmental action on energy use or energy production; and

(8) Any beneficial aspects of the proposed governmental action, both short-term and long-term, and its economic advantages and disadvantages.

(b) Prior to the issuance of the environmental effects report, the responsible official should consult with and obtain the comments of any agency which has jurisdiction by law, special expertise, or other interest with respect to any environmental impact or resource.

(c) At least 45 days prior to making a decision as to whether to proceed with a proposed governmental action which may significantly adversely affect the quality of the environment, the responsible official shall publish in the legal organ of each county in which the proposed governmental action or any part thereof is to occur notice that an environmental effects report has been prepared. The responsible official shall also make the environmental effects report available to the public and to counties, municipalities, institutions, and individuals, upon request.

31-21-5 (GCA § ???)

Interred human remains. [paraphrased]

(a) Anyone who knows that interred human remains are being disturbed or removed without a state permit, or without written permission of the landowner to conduct professional archaeological excavations, or not under Section 106 compliance, and anyone who accidentally discovers human remains must immediately notify the local law enforcement agency.

(b) The police then notify coroner; if not a crime site, coroner notifies local governing authority and the department [of Natural Resources]; if the department thinks remains are Indian, the department notifies the Council on

American Indian Concerns; the remains are not to be further disturbed until:

(1) The county coroner or medical examiner, after determining that investigation of the death is required, has completed forensic examination of the site;

(2) A permit is issued for land use change and disturbance pursuant to Code Section 36-72-4; a permit is issued or a contract is let pursuant to subsection (d) of Code Section 12-3-52; or written permission is obtained from the landowner for the conduct of an archaeological excavation; or

(3) If such a permit is not sought, the Department of Natural Resources arranges with the landowner for the protection of the remains.

(c) Normal farming activity, including plowing, disking, harvesting, and grazing of livestock, is exempt from these provisions.