North Carolina Office of State Archaeology


North Carolina Archaeology

North Carolina's Archaeological Resources

North Carolina's archaeological resources represent over 12,000 years of culture and history. Today these resources are becoming increasingly rare as archaeological sites are lost to construction and urban expansion. Even worse, important archaeological sites are threatened by vandalism. Each year hundreds of sites in North Carolina (and thousands over the United States) are damaged or destroyed by unscrupulous collectors who dig for artifacts to sell or to add to their own collections. These activities destroy historic and scientific resources.

It is important that amateur archaeologists, who enjoy collecting Indian artifacts, understand the fragile nature of archaeological sites and practice proper techniques when investigating them. First and foremost, the collector must understand the difference between collecting artifacts from the ground surface and digging into a site. Digging an archaeological site without the supervision of a trained professional destroys most of the information that archaeologists need to interpret a site and should never be attempted. On the other hand, responsible amateur archaeologists can engage in surface collecting of sites and contribute to the knowledge of the prehistory of our state.

You can help save our archaeological heritage by accomplishing the following, and TOGETHER, WE CAN SAVE THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE.

1. Everyone can help record archaeological sites; thousands of the recorded sites in North Carolina were reported by amateur collectors. If you know about or have found an Indian site (campsite, village, burial) please report its location by filling out an "Amateur Site Form" and putting it in the mail. You will receive notice of the official state number assigned to your site. (Download the form or send an e-mail report of a site to the Office of State Archaeology at

2. 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 topographic map 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.

3. Report any construction, destruction or land-altering plans which involve an archaeological site as soon as the plans are made so that the information found there may be collected and saved.

4. Refrain from digging on archaeological sites. The locations of artifacts and other fragile archaeological remains are evidence of the behavior of the people who made them. Only careful, scientific excavation enables the archaeologist to recover and interpret this evidence. Remember, once a site is excavated or disturbed in some way, it is gone forever.

5. Know the laws pertaining to the collection of archaeological remains. It is against the law to collect artifacts from state or federal property without proper authorization. It is against state law to disturb marked or unmarked graves or burial sites on private or public property. It is illegal to collect artifacts from the bottoms of navigable bodies of water if the artifacts are more than ten years old. It can be a trespassing violation to gather artifacts on private property without the permission of the landowner.

6. Become knowledgeable about the prehistory of our state and the people who lived here for thousands of years. Respect archaeological sites and support programs aimed at the proper management of these cultural resources.

You are encouraged to join the North Carolina Archaeological Society.


2006-2009 North Carolina Office of State Archaeology. All rights reserved.
North Carolina Cemetery Survey Human Remains and Unmarked Burials