Archaeology FAQ’s

  • Youth Recreation
  • Cultural Activities
  • Language
  • Displays
  • Archaeology

What is archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of cultures through time by the examination of the material remains they leave behind.

What are cultural places and resources?

Cultural places and resources are any natural or human created part of the environment that has cultural value. They include ancient village and camp sites, rock shelters, vision quest sites, traditional plant gathering, fishing and hunting locations, medicine trees, rock art sites, and artifacts.

What are artifacts?

Artifacts refer to any material remains of human life or activities. They can include but are not limited to arrowheads, stone bowls, shell, bones, wood, pottery or basketry.

What do I do if I find human remains?

Immediately call the:

  • Oregon State Police – 800.452.7888
  • Cow Creek Tribal Archaeologist – 541.677.5575
  • State Historic Preservation Office – 503.986.0681
  • Commission on Indian Services – 503.986.1067

Secure the scene until a determination can be made that the remains are not forensic:

  • Do not allow anyone to touch, move or otherwise disturb the remains
  • Shield the remains from the general public and the media

Seek Tribal guidance on how to proceed if the remains are determined to be ancestral.

I have cultural materials in my attic, what should I do?

Contact the Tribal Archaeologist at 541.677.5575. Together, we can discuss the appropriate disposition of the cultural items.

Are there laws related to Archeology?

Numerous state and federal laws exist to help manage and protect archaeological sites and cultural resources. Below is a list and brief summary of each:

Federal Laws:

  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 – protects and preserves for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.
  • Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 – provides for the recovery and preservation of historical and archaeological data that might be lost or destroyed in the construction of dams and reservoirs. The AHPA gives the Secretary of the Interior the responsibility for coordinating and administering a nationwide program for recovery, protection and preservation of scientific, prehistoric, and historic data.
  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 – established the permit process on public and Native American lands; provides criminal and civil penalties for looting or damaging sites that are 100 years or older on public and Tribal lands.
  • Antiquities Act of 1906 – establishes protection of any “historic ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity situated on government lands…” required permits for their removal. The Secretary of the Interior was charged with this responsibility.
  • Indian Sacred Sites (Executive Order No. 13007) – enacted in 1996, this law, in order to protect and preserve Indian religious practices, orders agencies managing Federal lands to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners and avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites.
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 – authorized the Secretary of the Interior to expand and maintain a National Register, established and defined the responsibilities of the State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, and pledged federal assistance for preservation efforts of state and local groups.
  • Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 – requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their activities and programs on historic properties. When a federal agency funds, licenses, or permits an activity that may affect cultural resources, the agency must consult with the State Historic Preservation Office in cooperation with the ACHP (Advisory Council of Historical Preservation) in Washington, D.C. to comply with Section 106 of the NHPA.
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 – requires the return of Native American remains and cultural objects by federal agencies and museums to Native American groups; governs excavations and inadvertent discovery of remains and cultural items on federal and Tribal lands.
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 – requires federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements for each federal action having an effect on the environment. Part of the legislation states that “it is the continuing responsibility of the federal government to use all practicable means…to preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage.”

State Laws:

  • Archaeological Objects and Sites (ORS 358.905 – 358.955) – law provides definitions of archaeological sites, 75 years of age or older, significance; prohibits the sale and exchange of cultural items, or damage to archaeological sites on public and private lands. Items of cultural patrimony or associated with human remains are protected everywhere, unless the activity is authorized by an archaeological excavation permit.
  • Conservation Easement (ORS 271.715 – 271.795) – permits agencies to help in protecting lands with special natural or cultural features and provides tax incentives to private land owners who agree to restrict their use of such lands.
  • Indian Graves and Protected Objects (ORS 97.740 – 97.760) – protects all Native American cairns and graves and associated cultural items.
  • Scenic Waterways (ORS 390.805 – 390.925) – establishes state policy that protects historic and archaeological sites that are located adjacent to designated scenic waterways from destruction due to the building of dams, construction, mining.
  • State Historic Preservation Plan (ORS 358.605 – 358.622) – established the State Historic Preservation Office as the administrative agency designated to carry out the state’s policies on the identification, preservation and management of culturally significant structures, sites and objects within the state. Among other tasks, this plan authorized the state to conduct a comprehensive, statewide survey to identify all properties that are potentially significant to Oregon history and to maintain a statewide inventory of historic properties.