State Statutes

Archaeological Resources Protection Act 

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 70, Article 2

Modeled after the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, this statute applies to all state-owned, occupied or controlled property except for highway rights-of-way.

The purpose of the statute is to provide for the protection of archaeological resources on state lands. Major provisions of the law are as follows:

  1. Archaeological resources are defined as any material remains of past human life or activities which are at least 50 years old and which are of archaeological interest, including pieces of pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, rock paintings, rock carvings, intaglios, graves or human skeletal materials.

  2. Permits are required in order to conduct archaeological investigations on state lands.

  3. (The 1991 amendment to ARPA, effective July 1, 1991, transferred to the Department of Cultural Resources--from Department of Administration--the authority to issue permits under G.S. 70, Article 2.)

  4. Information on archaeological site locations is exempted from unrestricted public access may result in damage to or destruction of the archaeological resources

  5. All archaeological resources, equipment and vehicles utilized in conjunction with violation of the law are subject to forfeiture.

Prohibitions and penalties under the law are as follows:

  1. No person may excavate, remove, damage or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on state lands without a permit.

  2. No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive or offer to sell, purchase, exchange, transport or receive any archaeological resource excavated or removed from state lands in violation of the law.

  3. Any person who knowingly and willfully violates or employs any other person to violate any prohibition of the law, shall upon conviction, be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

  4. Each day on which a violation occurs shall be a separate and distinct offense.

  5. Civil penalties may also be assessed against any person who violates the provisions of the act.

More Information on ARPA

North Carolina Archaeological Record Program

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 70, Article 4

This statute provides a mechanism for protecting archaeological resources on private lands in North Carolina, through a voluntary system of site registration, and with applications of the state ARPA (G.S. 70, Article 2) permitting system for registered sites. The permitting process and penalties are the same as those found in ARPA and its attendant administrative code. Permits are required for anyone wanting to conduct archaeological investigations on private land enrolled in the Record Program.

A Site Steward program is also established in Article 4, as a means of enlisting public volunteers for site monitoring purposes. The Office of State Archaeology, State Historic Preservation Office, coordinates the site steward program in cooperation with local and state archaeological societies and groups.

More Information on G.S. 70, Article 4

North Carolina Environmental Policy Act 

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 113A, Article 1

This statute declares a continuing state policy of conservation and protection of its natural resources and preservation of "the important historic and cultural elements of our common inheritance." The law also requires state agencies to consider and report upon environmental aspects and consequences of their actions involving the expenditure of public monies. The content of the required environmental document is outlined in the statute and provisions are made for consultation with other state agencies with special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved. Affected local governments and interested individuals are given an opportunity to comment on proposed actions and local governments are given the authority to enact ordinances requiring impact statements for major private developments. Projects less than two contiguous acres in extent are exempt from the requirements of the Act. Environmental impact statements prepared to meet federal requirements are considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of this Act.

More Information on G.S. 113A, Article 1

Protection and Enhancement of Historical and Cultural Heritage of North Carolina, 

Executive Order XVI

Under the gubernatorial mandate, patterned after federal Executive Order 11593, state agencies are directed to survey properties under their jurisdiction and identify those eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Furthermore, they shall institute procedures to assure that state plans and programs contribute to the preservation and enhancement of significant cultural property.


Protection of Properties in the National Register

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 121-12(a)

This portion of the General Statutes provides an advisory and coordinative mechanism on the state level patterned after that set up on the federal level for the protection of National Register properties. The North Carolina Historical Commission (which with added members forms the State Professional Review Committee) is responsible for the approval of all properties submitted to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register. In other respects the Historical Commission is the state level legal counterpart to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. And since the State Historic Preservation Officer serves as the secretary of the Historical Commission, the requirements of federal and state legislation are closely interwoven into one body within North Carolina state government.

As authorized by this statute, the Historical Commission is charged with providing an advisory and coordinative mechanism in and by which state undertakings of every kind that are potentially harmful to the cause of historic preservation may be discussed, and where possible, resolved, after giving due consideration to the competing public interests involved.

To this end, the head of any state agency having direct or indirect jurisdiction over proposed state or state-assisted undertaking, or the head of any state department, board, commission, or independent agency having authority to build, construct, operate, license, authorize, assist or approve any state or state-assisted undertaking, shall, prior to the approval of any state-assisted undertaking, shall, prior to the approval of any state funds for the undertaking or the issuance of any license, etc., take into account its impacton any historic property listed in the National Register. If such a property will be affected, the Historical Commission must be given ample opportunity to comment, with the agencies involved being charged to provide all necessary information.

More Information on G.S. 121-12

Salvage of Abandoned Shipwrecks and Other Underwater Archaeological Sites

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 121, Article 3

North Carolina's underwater archaeology program was instituted in 1967 as a result of this law. Subsection 121-22 establishes title for the State to all shipwrecks, vessels, cargoes, tackle and underwater archaeological artifacts abandoned for more than ten (10) years and lying on the bottoms of navigable waters and ocean waters from within one marine league seaward from the Atlantic seashore extreme low watermark.

The Division of Archives and History is the custodian of all shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological resources and is charged with promulgating necessary rules and regulations for the protection of those resources. The Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU), Office of State Archaeology, State Historic Preservation Office, is the professional staff responsible for conducting or supervising the survey, protection, preservation and systematic recovery of underwater archaeological resources. The UAU also coordinates and monitors progress and results of permits issued by the Department of Cultural Resources.

Permits are required for the exploration, recovery or salvage of state-owned abandoned shipwrecks and underwater archaeological artifacts. Permits may be issued on the following basis:

  • the applicant has adequate funds, equipment, and facilities to undertake and complete the operation, is capable of providing supervision of all phases of the operation and has demonstrated the ability to carry out acceptable exploration, recovery or salvage projects;

  • the proposed activity is undertaken for the purpose of furthering archaeological knowledge in the public interest;

  • the proposed activity employs accepted techniques of survey, excavation, recovery, recording, preservation, and analysis used in exploration, recovery and salvage projects; and

  • the underwater archaeological artifacts recovered during the proposed project will be properly conserved and these artifacts and copies of associated archaeological records and data will be curated in an acceptable manner.

More Information on G.S. 121, Article 3

Unmarked Human Burial and Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 70, Article 3

This statute applies to all lands within the state of North Carolina except for that under federal ownership or control.

The purpose of the statute is to provide adequate protection from vandalism for unmarked human burials and human skeletal remains, to provide adequate protection for unmarked human burials and human skeletal remains not within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner that are encountered during archaeological excavation, construction, or other ground disturbing activities, and to provide for adequate skeletal analysis of remains removed or excavated from unmarked human burials if the analysis would result in valuable scientific information.

Major provisions of the law are as follows:

1. Legal protection of all unmarked human burials and human skeletal remains is provided.

2. Specific procedures to be followed when unmarked human burials and human skeletal remains are discovered are outlined.

3. Scientific excavation of unmarked human burials and human skeletal remains by professional archaeologists is allowed.

4. Provision are made for scientific analysis of excavated remains and minimum qualifications for persons conducting scientific analysis are outlined.

5. The Executive Director, North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, in consultation with the Eastern Band of Cherokee and other tribal groups, is given decision-making authority with regard to ultimate disposition of Native American remains recovered (after completion of scientific analysis).

6. A mechanism for locating and identifying possible interested or affected parties besides the Native American community is outlined.

Prohibitions and penalties under the law are as follows:

1. No person, unless acting under the provisions of G.S. 130-198 through G.S. 130-201, shall:

  • knowingly acquire any human skeletal remains removed from unmarked human burials in North Carolina after October 1, 1981, except in accordance with the provisions of this article;

  • knowingly exhibit or sell any human skeletal remains acquired from unmarked burials in North Carolina; and

  • knowingly retain human skeletal remains acquired from unmarked burials in North Carolina after October 1, 1981, for scientific analysis beyond a period of time provided for such analysis, except from those skeletal remains curated under provisions of this article.

2. Failure to report the discovery of unmarked human burials or human skeletal remains is a misdemeanor.

3. Violation of the provisions of G.S. 70-37(a) (number 1 above) is a Class H felony.

Other state laws which involve identification and protection of graves and cemeteries include: Cemeteries (Chapter 65); and Criminal Law(Subsections 14-148 and 14-149 - "Defacing or desecrating grave sites," and "Desecrating, plowing over or covering up graves").

More Information on G.S. 70, Article 3