According to the Society for American Archaeology,
"An archaeological site is any place where there are physical remains of past human activities. There are many types of archaeological sites. Prehistoric archaeological sites are those without a written record. They may include villages or cities, stone quarries, rock art, ancient cemeteries, campsites, and megalithic stone monuments. A site can be as small as a pile of chipped stone tools left by a prehistoric hunter. Or a site can be as large and complex as the prehistoric settlements of Chaco Canyon in the American southwest. Historical archaeology sites are those where archaeologists can use writing to aid their research. Those could include densely populated modern cities, or areas far below the surface of a river, or the sea. The wide variety of historical archaeological sites include shipwrecks, battlefields, slave quarters, cemeteries, mills, and factories."
If you know of or found an archaeological site, please fill out a site form and send it to us. Your site will be added to the state's official site inventory and you will be contributing to the study of North Carolina's history. Check out our Get Involved page for more information about ways to contribute to archaeology.
We offer informational programs to interested schools and community groups whenever possible. We can provide in-person presentations or Skype calls about archaeology in North Carolina. Please contact us for more information.
The OSA Research Center regularly accepts volunteers when space is available. For more information on volunteering, please visit our volunteer page.
Occasionally, OSA will conduct small-scale digs, typically at State Historic Sites or State Parks that are open to the public. For information about upcoming digs and other opportunities, please visit the events page.
The National Register of Historic Places is an honorary designation and list of sites and properties that have been determined by the State Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service to be significant to the history of the United States at a local, state, or national level. Listings include districts, buildings, objects, structures, and sites. For more information, visit the National Register page.
Grants are available to mainly local governments and organizations for architectural and archaeological surveys, National Register nominations, and preservation planning administered through the Historic Preservation Office. For information about grants, please visit NC HPO.
We have a map for that! Type in your address or zoom in to your city, county, or region to find the archaeologist who specializes in your region.
OSA maintains strict guidelines for the curation of artifacts submitted to OSARC. Collections that do not meet these guidelines may not be accepted by our curation facility. Please read our curation guidelines for more information. On rare occasions, OSARC has accepted unique collections that are not ready for long-term curation; however, artifacts that meet the guidelines require less time and research to be processed by OSARC personnel.
Please see our Site File Research Page for current remote research procedures.
Submit a request at least 48 hours in advance to schedule a visit. Individuals seeking to do background research at an OSA facility must meet or be under the supervision of an individual who meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards as described in 36 CFR Part 61 (See OSA Standards and Guidelines Part 2b). It is expected individuals doing background research will have been trained in how to conduct research at the OSA before scheduling an appointment.
To protect sites from looting, OSA's data and inventory are protected by state statute and we reserve the right to restrict access to information when deemed necessary.
Do not touch or disturb the bones. Notify the state or local police and the regional medical examiner about the discovery and location.
Please remember: Once bones or artifacts are removed from the site, valuable information concerning the identity and age of the human remains is lost. Therefore, it is important not to disturb the site in any way until the State Archaeologist can conduct an investigation and record the discovery.
Why are bones sometimes found?
In North Carolina, many unmarked graves exist without gravestones, fences, tombstones, or other surface indications of their presence. These are chiefly the graves of prehistoric and historic Native Americans, which may never have been marked at all; or graves which had been identified at one time in the past, but the markers no longer exist. As a result, bones are often found during ordinary ground-disturbing activities such as the construction of new homes, utilities, or roads; in the agricultural or industrial use of a site; or the excavation of borrow pits. Bones are also sometimes found eroding out of areas exposed by natural erosion, floodwater scouring, or sand dune formation.
N.C. General Statute 70, Article 3 establishes procedures to follow when human bones are accidentally discovered.
When bones are found, who is involved?
State and Local Law Enforcement
The Medical Examiner investigates the discovery to determine whether the bones are human and whether a criminal investigation may be warranted. If G.S. 130-198 does not apply, the Chief Medical Examiner then notifies the State Archaeologist, who immediately conducts an archaeological investigation of the site. Throughout these investigations, the police authorities should ensure that the site is protected from further damage.
The State Archaeologist investigates the site to determine the age, cultural association, and identity of the burial. If the State Archaeologist determines that the burial is that of a Native American, the Commission of Indian Affairs is notified. The State Archaeologist consults with the landowner to determine whether the burial can remain undisturbed. In the case of development projects, the owner and State Archaeologist discuss whether there are prudent and feasible steps the owner can take to protect the burial. If it is impossible to avoid future harm to the burial, the State Archaeologist will arrange to have the remains removed.
The archaeological investigation of Indian burials is monitored by the Commission of Indian Affairs to ensure that the remains are treated respectfully.