Citation: Archaeology (Tenn. Code Ann. Â§11-6-101-119); Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, Welfare (Tenn. Code Ann. Â§39-17-311-312); Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Division of Archaeology (Chapter 0400-9-1).
Date Enacted: Amended in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1996
Summary: The statute was amended in 1990 to incorporate specific treatment of human remains and grave goods. Tennessee claims title to any and all archaeological sites and materials on state or local municipality lands. Excavation on such lands is prohibited without a permit issued by the State Archaeologist. A nine member archaeological advisory council is established to advise the commissioner of conservation and the State Archaeologist. Three of the members are to be Native Americans of at least 1/4 blood and representative of the Native American community of Tennessee. Where sites or artifacts may be found on state, county lands and the entity is preparing any earth moving activity, supervisors of such work should notify the Division of Archaeology of the discovery and location. The entity is charged with cooperating to the extent possible to prevent destruction of sites and artifact or to allow the Division of Archaeology to obtain maximum information and artifacts before the location is destroyed. Anyone who encounters or accidentally disturbs or disinters human remains on either publicly or privately owned lands, immediately ceases the activity and notifies the coroner or medical examiner and the local law enforcement agency. Intentional desecration of a place of burial is a Class A misdemeanor. Failure to notify the authorities or failure to cease activity is a misdemeanor with fines not less than $50 and not more than $1,000 or imprisonment not less than 10 days and not more than six months. The coroner or medical examiner determines, within five days, if the human remains are the result of a crime. If there are no forensic or criminal concerns, the coroner or medical examiner alerts the Division of Archaeology. Human remains and burial objects become the responsibly of the State Archaeologist, who determines if excavation is necessary and issues a permit for removal. Certain activities are exempted from provisions to cease including normal farming activities. If human remains of Native American Indians are to be excavated, the Native American members of the Archaeological Advisory Council, the Chairman of the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs, and the State Archaeologist must be notified, and at least one Native American observer is entitled to be present at the site during removal, excavation, or disinterment. The reinterment of Native American skeletal remains must be done in a manner consistent with original and/or traditional customs. All reburial areas should be as close to the original burial area as practicable, with boundaries clearly marked, and must be designated as a cemetery and be registered with the county's tax assessor. It is illegal to display or exhibit Native American Indian human remains except as evidence in a judicial proceeding. It is a felony to transport human remains into or out of Tennessee except for hospitals, medical schools, as part of burial preparation, or as evidence in a judicial proceeding. Any human remains discovered in the course of any excavation or accidentally uncovered shall be properly reburied following scientific analysis within six months of discovery. Scientific or medical research may be extended an additional six months.
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Jurisdiction: All private and public lands in Tennessee.
Statute of Limitations: Not specified.
Areas Covered Under Act: Undocumented human burials.
Ownership: Tennessee claims title to any and all archaeological sites and materials on state or local municipality lands.
Review/Consultation Committee: The Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs and the Archaeological Advisory Council, including at least 3 Native American members, must be consulted.
Liable: Anyone who knowingly disturbs human burials or fails to cease disturbing activities or fails to report discovery to the authorities.
Penalties: Failure to notify the authorities or failure to cease activity is a Class A misdemeanor with fines not less than $50 and not more than $1,000 or imprisonment not less than 10 days and not more than six months.
Exemptions: Certain activities are exempted from provisions to cease including normal farming activities such as plowing, discing, harvesting, or grazing.
Permitting: Excavation on such lands is prohibited without a permit issued by the State Archaeologist.