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Cultural Resource Management

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Cultural Resource Management

In cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma Historical Society, the Archeological Survey works to preserve and protect Oklahoma's significant archaeological resources.

State and Federal Laws Pertaining to Archeology

Through a variety of state and federal laws, the staff of the Survey works to preserve and protect important archeological resources. Among the most important of these laws are:

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, requires that Federal agencies and their designees/authorized representatives take into account the effects of their federal undertakings on cultural resources that are listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The process of complying with Section 106 in Oklahoma provides OAS with a role in commenting specifically on potential impacts to significant archaeological resources.  For more on Section 106, visit our Resources Page.

The Oklahoma Antiquities Law (53 Oklahoma Statute § 53-361) protects archaeological sites on the State Register of Historic Places or on property owned by or under the control of the State of Oklahoma or any of its political subdivisions that are subject to taking, salvage, excavation, restoration, or scientific or educational studies. 

  • Excavation of such sites must be done by trained researchers who have been issued a permit from the State Archaeologist, Oklahoma Archeological Survey.
  • All artifacts recovered from excavations on state lands must be deposited in an Oklahoma museum or repository. The policy of the State Archaeologist, the State Historic Preservation Officer, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is to make archaeological materials available to qualified researchers for study and to responsible museums for display.
  • A provision in the law can also help landowners protect their archaeological sites against unauthorized relic digging.
  • Violators of the provisions of this law are guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, may be fined up to $500 and/or be imprisoned up to 30 days in the county jail.

The Burial Desecration Law (21 Oklahoma Statute § 21.1168.0-1168.6) extends protection to human remains and associated burial goods in unmarked graves on both state- and privately-owned land. Among the provisions of this law:

  • It is illegal to knowingly disturb, buy, sell, or barter human skeletal remains or associated items from unmarked graves. Also, these items may not be displayed for profit or in any commercial enterprise. 
  • People who encounter or discover unmarked graves and their contents should stop any further disturbance activities and report the find to an appropriate law enforcement officer in the county where the remains are found.
  • Violators of this law may be guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony. For a misdemeanor conviction, violators may be fined up to $500 and/or be imprisoned up to six months in the county jail. A felony conviction could result in a $1000 fine with up to two years imprisonment in the state penitentiary.

Through the Community Assistance Program, the State Archaeologist and other OAS staff work to assist federal, state, and local agencies as they navigate their compliance with these laws and regulatory processes, and as they take steps to protect Oklahoma’s archaeological resources.