If I report a site on my land, will the state limit what I can do or try to take over my property?
No. MDAH archaeologists are interested only in recording the recording the site’s location and artifacts from your site. We are, however, interested in protecting sites from destruction and can work with landowners to preserve important sites.
Will the state confiscate my artifacts?
No. By state law, artifacts found on private property belong to the landowner. MDAH archaeologists are interested in recording private collections to add to the MDAH database and to aid in our understanding of the past. MDAH does accept for permanent curation and future study donations of artifact collections that are clearly marked as to their provenience.
If I report a site, will it become public record?
Yes and No. Yes, the general information about the site will be available to the public as well as professional archaeologists and government agency planners. No, the specific information about site locations is protected information. Records of MDAH are public, but information about archaeological site locations is protected by law and exempted from freedom of information requests. Site location information is kept confidential so that site owners will not be disturbed with trespassers, and sites will not be damaged or destroyed by vandals.
What should I do when I find artifacts at a site?
If you collect artifacts from an archaeological site, it is very important to keep good records. You should mark each of your sites on an accurate map, such as a USGS 7.5’ topographic map, USDA soil maps, or a highway map. Keep artifacts from different sites separated. Label each of your pieces in a way that will tell you from which site they came. For example, mark your own site name or number on artifacts with indelible ink.
What should I do if I find a site on private property?
Always ask for written permission of a landowner before visiting an archaeological site on private property. Never take anything from a site or disturb it in any way unless the landowner has given permission and you know how to keep a careful record of what is removed. It can be a trespassing violation to gather artifacts on private property without the written permission of the landowner.
What should I do if I find artifacts or sites on state or federal land?
Removing artifacts from state or federal land is illegal. If you find artifacts on publicly owned land, report it to the agency manager, MDAH, or a professional archaeologist.
If I find artifacts on top of the ground, should I dig to see what else is there?
No. Digging disturbs evidence and destroys part of the scientific value of a site and its artifacts. Refrain from digging at archaeological sites. The locations of artifacts and other fragile archaeological remains are evidence of the behavior of the people who made them. Only through careful, scientific excavation can the archaeologist recover and interpret this evidence. Archaeological sites are considered “non-renewable resources”: once a site is excavated or disturbed in any way, the information the site contained is no longer available and cannot be gained from another source.
IMPORTANT : Digging human burials (historic or prehistoric) is ILLEGAL on ALL property—public or private. You can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to two years for burial desecration.