11-6-101. Division Established - Purposes.
11-6-103. Archaeological Advisory Council
11-6-104. Excavated Artifacts - Property of
State - Availability and Care
11-6-105. Excavation of state lands -
permits - Unauthorized excavation - Penalty.
11-6-106. Defacement of sites or
artifacts - Misdemeanor.
11-6-107. Discovery of sites, artifacts, or
human remains - Notice to division, contractors, and authorities.
11-6-108. State Lands - Reserved from
Sale - Procedure.
11-6-109. Private Land - Trespass,
vandalism, and unauthorized activities - Permission - Artifacts -
Prohibited storage, dumping or littering.
11-6-110. Designation as archaeological
11-6-111. Sites threatened by construction projects -- Contract
with corporations or organizations.
11-6-112. Violations - Class E Felony -
11-6-113. Contracts and cooperative
agreements - Authorization.
11-6-114. Acceptance of gifts and
grants - Title to land.
11-6-115. Tennessee Archaeological
Society - Support of Programs.
11-6-116. Excavation of areas containing
Native American Indian human remains - On-site representatives.
11-6-117. Display of Native American Human
11-6-118. Import or export of human remains.
11-6-119. Reburial of human remains
following discovery or confiscation.
11-6-120. Volunteer Programs -- Provision of
archaeological information to schools and other interest groups --
Tennessee archaeology awareness week.
11-6-121. Abandoned Shipwrecks.
Tennessee Archaeology Statutes
11-6-101. Division established - Purposes.
Title 11 Natural Areas and Recreation
Chapter 6 Archaeology
(a) A division of archaeology is hereby established in the department of
environment and conservation to be headed by a person who will be designated as the state archaeologist.
(b) The division of archaeology is hereby authorized to initiate,
operate, and maintain a statewide program in archaeology which shall include, but not be limited to, the following items:
- Surveying the state for mapping, recording and identification of archaeological sites;
- Excavation of historic, underwater, prehistoric and paleontological sites, ruins, and mounds for the purpose of securing data and objects relating to man in Tennessee, and the preservation of such sites and materials secured;
- Fundamental research in Tennessee archaeology and encouragements of
public cooperation and responsibility for the preservation of Tennessee
antiquities and archaeological and paleontological sites;
- Research in and study of anthropology and related physical and
natural sciences, both prior to excavation and thereafter, in order to
plan and aid in discovery of sites and artifacts, and to provide for the
proper assessment once discovered;
- Publication, in accordance with the rules, regulations, policies and
procedures of the state publications committee, of findings in terms of
scientific, popular, and cultural values;
- Display and custodianship of artifacts, sites, and other tangible
results of the program; and
- Educational activities providing for the dissemination of information
on archaeological conservation and the encouragement of archaeological
societies, parks, and museums.
(c) It is not the purpose of the division of archaeology to preempt,
replace, or otherwise interfere with archaeological research
programs conducted by state institutions of higher learning, but, to the
contrary, to stimulate and supplement such programs whenever possible.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 2; T.C.A., § 11-501; Acts 1990, ch. 1024,
§ 13; Acts 1995, ch. 218, § 1].
As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
- "Artifacts" means all relics, specimens or objects of a historical,
prehistorical, archaeological, or anthropological nature which may be
found above or below the surface of the earth, and which have scientific
or historic value as objects of antiquity, as aboriginal relics, or as
- "Burial Grounds" means a place used for or to be used for human
burials. "Burial grounds" does not include an individual urn
or other container for ashes of a person who has been lawfully
The fact that any tract of land has been set apart for burial purposes,
or that a part or all of the grounds have been used for burial purposes,
shall be evidence that such grounds were set aside for burial purposes.
The fact that graves are not visible on any part of the grounds shall
not be construed as evidence that such grounds were not set aside and
used for burial purposes.
- "Burial Object" means any cultural material, including but not
limited to, whole or broken ceramic, metal or glass vessels, chipped
stone tools, groundstone tools, worked bone and shell objects, clothing,
medals, buttons, rings, jewelry, firearms, edged weapons, and the casket
and parts thereof, that were demonstrably buried with an individual or the
or mound associated with an individual or the structure created to house
- "Diving" means any underwater activity using snorkel, scuba, submersible or surface air supply;
- "Excavation" means digging below the surface of the earth or water by hand or
with mechanical equipment for the purpose of recovering artifacts,
archaeological data, human remains or burial objects.
- "Field archaeology" means the study of the traces of human culture at
any land or water site by means of photographing, mapping, surveying,
digging, sampling, excavating, and removing artifacts or other
archaeological material, or going on a site with that intent;
- "Human remains" means the bodies of deceased persons, in whatever
stage of decomposition, including, but not limited to, skeletal remains,
mummies, or body parts. "Human remains" does not include the ashes of a
person who has been lawfully cremated. "Human remains" does not include
body parts or tissue which is removed for transplantation or other
medical procedures or research.
- "Site" means any location of historic or prehistoric human activity
such as, but not restricted to, mounds, forts, earthworks, burial
grounds, structures, villages, mines, caves, shipwrecks, and all locations which are
or may be sources of paleontological remains;
- "Submerged" means beneath or substantially beneath the territorial waters of the state;
- "Surface collecting" means walking fields, stream banks, or other
locations to look for and collect artifacts lying on the surface of the
ground, or which are partially exposed on the surface of the ground, or
which have been disturbed by plowing or natural processes of erosion; and
- "Territorial waters" means the navigable waters of the state, and such other waters of the state as may be included within "lands beneath navigable waters" as defined in the federal Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 2; 1973, ch. 77, § 1; T.C.A. § 11-1502;
Acts 1990, ch. 852, § 1; 1995, ch. 218, § 2.]
11-1-103. Archaeological Advisory Council.
(a) A ten-member archaeological advisory council to the
commissioner of environment and conservation and the state archaeologist is
- Members of the advisory council shall serve staggered terms, and to such end the governor shall by June 30, 1983, appoint one (1) member to serve a term of four (4) years.
- The governor shall by June 30, 1986, appoint:
- (A) One (1) member to serve a term of two (2) years;
- (B) One (1) member to serve a term of three (3) years;
- (C) One (1) member to serve a term of four (4) years;
- (D) Two (2) members to serve a term of five (5) years;
- (E) Three (3) members to serve terms of three (3), four (4), and five
(5) years, respectively, to be apointed by June 30, 1990; and
- (F) The initial appointment for the anthropologist representing
Middle Tennessee State University shall bee for two (2) years, to be
appointed by June 30, 1995.
- Thereafter, each newly-appointed member shall be appointed to serve a
five (5) year term and may be subject to re-appointment.
(c) The council shall be composed of:
- Five (5) anthropologists representing the University of Tennessee,
University of Memphis, Vanderbilt University, Middle
Tennessee State University, and East Tennessee State
- One (1) representative from the Tennessee historical commission;
- One (1) representative from a recognized archaeological association
- Three (3) members shall be persons of Native American descent of at
least one-quarter (1/4) blood quantum and representative of the native
American community in Tennessee; and
- One (1) member from the public at large.
(d) The members of the council shall receive no salary; provided,
that travel expenses incurred by such members in the performance
of duties with respect to the council shall be reimbursed in accordance
with the provisions of the comprehensive travel regulations as
promulgated by the department of finance and administration and approved
by the attorney general and reporter.
(e) The duties of the council shall be to advise the commissioner of
environment and conservation and the state archaeologist on all matters of
relating to the activities of the division and to the employment of
professional personnel. It shall be the responsibility of this council
to organize and set forth its rules and operational procedures.
(f) The council and the state archaeologist shall submit annually a
comprehensive report of their activities and the results of their studies
to the commissioner and to the governor and to the
members of the general assembly in the first month of each calendar
year. They shall also from time to time submit such additional and
special reports as are deemed advisable.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 3; 1976, ch. 806, § 1(7); T.C.A. §
11-1503; Acts 1982, ch. 675, § 3; 1990, ch. 852, §§ 2-4; 1994, ch.
538, § 2; 1995, ch. 188 §§ 1-3; 2006, ch. 968 '' 1,2].
11-6-104. Excavated Artifacts - Property of state -
(a) All artifacts and other materials excavated, discovered, donated,
or otherwise by the division of archaeology acquired in pursuance of this
program shall be the property of the state of Tennessee and be placed
under the custodianship of the division of archaeology. The state
archaeologist has primary responsibility to assure that the
material is properly and adequately safeguarded and available at all
reasonable times to interested scientists and to the public insofar as
funds and good scientific practices permit. The state archaeologist may,
whenever it is consistent with good scientific practices and in the
furtherance of the aims and purposes of the division of archaeology,
approve and permit the loan of such objects and materials to nonprofit
scientific organizations, public agencies, museums, and institutions of
higher learning both within and without Tennessee for purposes of
research or public education.
(b) There shall be no public exhibition or
display of Native American Indian human remains held by the division.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 4; T.C.A., § 11-1504; Acts 1990, ch. 852,
11-6-105. Excavation of state lands - Permits -
Unauthorized Excavation - Penalty.
(a) The state of Tennessee reserves to itself the exclusive right and
privilege or field archaeology on sites owned or controlled by the state,
its agencies, departments, institutions and commissions in order to
protect and preserve archaeological and scientific information, matter
(b) All such information and artifacts recovered from state lands shall
be utilized solely for scientific or public educational purposes and
shall remain the property of the state unless the state archaeologist and
the advisory council shall conclude that some artifacts do not merit
(c) No person or organization, including any other agents or agencies
of the state of Tennessee, unless acting as a duly authorized agent of
the division of archaeology, shall excavate upon any site situated on
lands owned or controlled by the state or any agency thereof.
(d) Permits and contracts for archaeological exploration or
excavation may be granted by the state archaeologist through the
division of archaeology for such periods of time and under such terms and
conditions as the state archaeologist may from time to time determine.
(e) All artifacts, photographs and records obtained by such agents
shall remain the property of the state, subject to the decision of the
state archaeologist and the advisory council, and shall be maintained in
agreed upon public repositories.
(f) Any person, corporation, society, or organization conducting such
explorations or excavations upon lands owned or controlled by the state
or any agency thereof without having first obtained permit from the state
archaeologist commits a Class A misdemeanor, except that any
violation occurring on a site listed in the Tennessee register of
archaeological sites where the commercial or archaeological value of the
artifact involved and the cost of restoration or repair of such
archaeological site or artifacts exceeds the sum of five thousand
dollars ($5,000) is a Class E felony.
(g) Any and all artifacts and material excavated by such person or
organization shall be forfeited to the state and shall be delivered
forthwith to the division of archaeology.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 5; 1973, ch. 77, § 2; T.C.A., § 11-1505;
Acts 1984, ch. 801, § 1; 1990, ch. 852, §§ 6, 7.]
11-6-106. Defacement of sites or artifacts -
In order that sites and artifacts on state-owned or controlled land shall
be protected for the benefit of the public, it is a misdemeanor
for any person, natural or corporate, to write upon, carve upon, paint,
deface, mutilate, destroy, or otherwise injure any object of antiquity,
artifact, Indian painting, Indian carving, or sites and all such acts of
vandalism shall be punished as Class A misdemeanors according to the
provisions of this chapter.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 6; T.C.A., § 11-1506; Acts 1989, ch. 591]
Discovery of sites, artifacts, or human remains - Notice to division,
contractors and authorities.
(a) All state agencies, departments, institutions, and commissions,
as well as all counties and muncipalities, shall cooperate fully with the
division of archaeology.
(b) Where any sites or artifacts may be found or discovered on
property owned or controlled by the state or by any county or
municipality, the agency, bureau, commission, governmental
subdivision, or county or municipality having control over or owning
such property and which is preparing to initiate construction or
other earth-moving activities upon such property or is currently
performing work of this type upon such property, the public body
having custody of the land shall comply with subsection (d) and is
directed to urge supervisors of such works to notify the division of the
discovery and location of such sites or artifacts immediately, and to
cooperate to the fullest extent practicable with the division,
either to prevent the destruction of such sites
and artifacts or to allow the division to obtain maximum
information and artifacts before these locations are disturbed or
(c) It is the responsibility of the state agencies to have
the provisions of this chapter made known to contractors who are to
perform work upon any such public lands, and contractors shall be
required to comply with the provisions of this chapter.
- Any person who encounters or accidentally disturbs or
disinters human remains on either publicly or privately owned land
except during excavations authorized under this chapter, shall:
- (A) Immediately cease disturbing the ground in the area of the human
- (B) Notify either the coroner or the medical examiner, and a local law
- Either the coroner or the medical examiner shall, within five (5)
working days, determine whether the site merits further investigation
within the scope of such official's duties;
- If the coroner or the medical examiner, and law enforcement personnel,
have no forensic or criminal concerns with regard to the site, then
the coroner or the medical examiner shall notify the department.
- Human remains and burial objects reported to the division of
archaeology shall be treated as provided in §§ 11-6-104 and 11-6-119, and/or
Title 46, Chapter 4, if applicable.
- A person who violates subdivision (d)(1)(A) or (B) commits a Class
- The provisions of this section do not apply to:
- (A) Normal farming activity, including, but not limited to, plowing,
disking, harvesting and grazing; provided, that if human remains
are discovered or disturbed a report should be made to the officials
specified in subdivision (d)(1)(B); or
- (B) Surface collecting.
- Nothing in this part shall be construed to grant a right of access or
occupation to the public without the landower's permission.
(e) All archaeological site clearance work carried out pursuant to this
section shall, in as far as practicable, be scheduled so as not to
interfere with construction activities, and such clearance work shall only
be conducted at sites which have the potential to yield information
significant to the scientific study of Tennessee's aboriginal and
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 7; T.C.A., § 11-1507; Acts 1990, ch. 852,
State Lands - Reserved from Sale - Procedure.
(a) Upon written notice to the commissioner of general services,
given by the state archaeologist, the commissioner shall reserve from
sale any state lands, including lands forfeited to the state for
nonpayment of taxes, on which sites or artifacts are located or may be
found; provided, that the reservation of such lands from sale
may be confined to the actual location of the site or artifacts.
(b) When such site or artifacts have been explored, excavated, or
otherwise examined to the extent desired by the division of archaeology,
the state archaeologist shall then file with the commissioner a statement
releasing such lands and permitting the sale of such lands.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 8; T.C.A., § 11-1508.]
11-6-109. Private Land - Trespass, vandalism, and
unauthorized activities - Permission - artifacts - Prohibited storage,
dumping or littering.
(a) It shall be deemed an act of trespass and a Class A misdemeanor for any
persons, natural or corporate, to excavate and remove artifacts from the
private land of any owner without first obtaining the owner's express
(b) No person, corporation, partnership, association or any other
entity shall excavate, damage, vandalize, or remove any artifact from or
otherwise alter or deface any site listed in the Tennessee register of
archaeological sites without first obtaining landowner permission.
(c) No person, corporation, partnership, association or any other
entity shall sell, offer to sell, purchase or offer to purchase, or
otherwise exchange any artifact from a site listed in the Tennessee
register of archaeological sites if the artifact has been removed or
received in violation of this section.
(d) No person, corporation, partnership, association, or any other
entity shall store, dump, litter or otherwise dispose of any garbage,
dead animal, sewage or toxic substance in any cave or sinkhole listed in
the Tennessee register of archaeological sites.
[Acts 1970, ch. 458, § 9; T.C.A., § 11-1509; Acts 1984, ch. 801,
§ 2; 1989, ch. 591.]
11-6-110. Designation as archaeological site.
An archaeological site of significance in the scientific study of
Tennessee's aboriginal past or important to the public knowledge and
appreciation of this history may be publicly designated by the
commissioner of environment and conservation and placed in the Tennessee
archaeological sites, provided, that no sites shall be so designated
without the express written consent of the state agency having
jurisdiction over the land in question or, if it is privately owned land,
the owner therof; provided, however, any person or entity having
given its permission may revoke such permission on giving thirty (30)
days' written notice of its intent to revoke to the division of
archaeology, which revocation will automatically take
place on the expiration of the thirty (3) days. Recommendations for
such designations shall be made by the state archaeological advisory
council in consultation with the state archaeologist and such
recommendations, together with appropriate supporting data, shall be
submitted to the commissioner. In addition to the
above, any landowner may petition the commissioner to
have any archaeological site located on the landowner's property
publicly designated and placed in the Tennessee register of
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 10; T.C.A., § 11-1510; Acts 1984, ch. 801,
11-6-111. Sites Threatened by construction projects - Contract with corporations or organizations.
The division of archaeology may make a contract with any corporation or
organization for the conduct of archaeology upon any site, particularly
sites threatened with damage or destruction by public or private
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 11; T.C.A., § 11-1511.]
11-6-112. Violations - Penalties -
(a) All acts declared to be misdemeanors in this part, and not
otherwise classified, are Class A misdemeanors.
(b) All acts declared to be felonies in this part, and not otherwise
classified, are Class E felonies.
(c) When properly commissioned and qualified by the commissioner of
conservation, employees of the division of archaeology shall have all of
the police powers necessary to enforce all state laws and all rules and
regulations made and published by the department
regarding archaeological sites which are authorized for park
superintendents and park rangers by § 11-3-107, within any of the
archaeological sites for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of §§ 11-6-104 - 11-6-106.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 12; 1973, ch. 77, § 3; T.C.A., § 11-1512;
Acts 1984, ch. 801, § 4; 1989, ch. 591, §§ 22, 112; 1990, ch. 852,
11-6-113. Contracts and cooperative agreements -
The department of transportation is hereby authorized and directed to
enter into appropriate contracts and cooperative agreements with the
division of archaeology and the United States bureau of public roads and
to expend funds, both state and federal, in aid of archaeological survey,
salvage, and preservation on any lands and rights-of-way now or hereafter
coming into its control in order that the purposes of this chapter shall
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 13; impl. am. Acts 1972, ch. 829, § 7; 1973,
ch. 77, § 4; T.C.A. § 11-1513.]
11-6-114. Acceptance of gifts and grants - Title
(a) The division of archaeology is hereby authorized to accept
grants, bequests, devises, gifts, and donations for purposes of
furthering the state program in archaeology and to expend funds so
received for those purposes.
(b) The department of environment and conservation has full
power to accept
and hold title to land or interests in land in the name of the state for
the purposes of this chapter.
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 14; T.C.A., § 11-1514.]
11-6-115. Tennessee Archaeological Society -
Support of Programs.
(a) The division of archaeology is hereby authorized to assist and
support the programs of the Tennessee Archaeological Society to the
extent that the purposes and aims of the two (2) coincide.
(b) The Tennessee Archaeological Society is hereby requested to
assist and cooperate with the purposes and programs of the division of
[Acts 1970, ch. 468, § 15; T.C.A., § 11-1515.]
11-6-116. Excavation of areas containing
Native American Indian human remains - On-site representatives - Notice of intent to remove remains.
(a) When a burial ground or other area containing human remains of
Native American Indians is excavated, representatives of Native Americans
shall have a right to be present on the site at all times excavation or
treatment of such remains is taking place.
(b) The department shall promulgate regulations governing
procedures for and the number of representatives to be present on sites.
(c) Any person engaged in work invoilving the removal of Native American Indian human remains must notify the state archaeologist in writing at least ten (10) days prior to the time a petition is filed under the provisions of title 46, chapter 4. Within two (2) business days of receiving such notice, the state archaeologist shall forward such notice to the Native American members of the archaeological advisory council and the chair of the Tennessee commission of Indian affairs.
[Acts 1990, ch. 852, § 11; ch. 509, $ 1.]
11-6-117. Display of Native American Indian human
There shall be no public exhibition or display or Native American
Indian human remains, except as evidence in a judicial proceeding.
[Acts 1990, ch. 852, § 11.]
11-6-118. Import or export of human remains.
(a) The import into Tennessee or the export from Tennessee of human
remains is prohibited except in the following instances:
- Import or export by hospitals, medical schools, colleges or
universities for education or
- Import for burial or reburial in Tennessee or export for burial or
reburial in another state or country; or
- Import or export for preparation for burial or reburial; or
- Import or export for use as evidence in any judicial proceeding.
(b) A violation of this subsection is a Class E felony.
(c) Any remains so imported or exported shall be confiscated and
subject to disposition as provided in §§ 11-6-104 and 11-6-119.
[Acts 1990, ch. 852, § 11; 2006, ch. 896, Part 2]
11-6-119. Reburial of Human Remains or Native American burial objects following
discovery or confiscation.
Any human remains or any Native American burial objects discovered in the course of an excavation, exhumation, or
accidentally, and any such remains and their associated burial objects confiscated under the provisions of
§ 11-6-118, shall be properly reburied following scientific analysis, within six (6) months of such discovery or
confiscation in accordance with procedures
formulated by the advisory council which are appropriate to Native
American traditions. Upon request for scientific or medical research,
the director of the division may grant an extension of not more than six
(6) months before reburial is required.
[Acts 1990, ch. 852, § 11.; 1999, ch. 509, $$ 2,3.]
11-6-120. Volunteer Programs -- Provisions of
archaeological information to schools and other interest groups --
Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Week.
(a) Within existing resources and personnel, the division is
authorized to carry out a coordinated program using qualified volunteers
to implement the purposes of this act pursuant to § 11-6-101.
(b) The division may establish an organized program of providing
archaeological information and programs to schools and other interest groups.
(c) The division may establish and coordinate activities focused on
one (1) special week of the year to promote the archaeological heritage
of Tennessee. This week shall be designated the "Tennessee Archaeology
[Acts 1995, ch. 91, § 1].
11-6-121. Abandoned Shipwrecks.
(a) Since the congress has found that the state has certain
responsibilities under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 (Public Law
No. 100-298), the division of archaeology is authorized to:
- Develop a plan regarding significant shipwreck sites in Tennessee
which will include management strategies for the preservation and
conservation of shipwrecks;
- Recognize important events and geographic locations in the history
and development of river navigation;
- Establish a geographic data base and an information system that can
be used to locate, track, and cross-reference significant shipwrecks;
(LI>Acquire or provide funds for the research and identification of
- Expend funds received from state appropriations and other sources to
make grants to municipalities, counties, and non-profit organizations for
the purposes of this section.
(b) The division is authorized, in carrying out its purposes, to:
- Accept loans or grants, or both, of money, materials, or property of
any kind from the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof
upon such terms and conditions as the United States or such agency or
instrumentality may impose.
- Receive and accept loans, gifts, grants, donations, or contributions
of property, facilities, or services, with or without consideration from
any person, firm, or corporation, or from the state or any agency or
instrumenality thereof or from any county, municipal corporation or local
government or governing body; and
- Hold, use, administer, and expend such sum or sums as may hereafter
be received as income, as gifts or as appropriations from the general
assembly for any of the purposes of the division.
[Acts 1995, ch. 218,