Administrative Code

Virginia Administrative Code
4/22/2024

Chapter 20. Regulations Governing Permits for the Archaeological Removal of Human Remains

17VAC5-20-10. Definitions.

The following words and terms, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Archaeological site" means a geographic area on dry land that contains any evidence of human activity which is or may be the source of important historic, scientific, archaeological or educational data or objects, regardless of age. Dry land includes land which is saturated or under water on a temporary basis.

"Associated artifacts" means natural objects or objects of human manufacture worn by or buried with human remains at the time of burial.

"Board" means the Virginia Board of Historic Resources.

"Curation" means the care and maintenance of artifacts or human remains, or both, from the time they are removed from the ground during any period of analysis and study, and as a possible option for long-term disposition of excavated materials.

"Department" means the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

"Director" means the Director of the Department of Historic Resources.

"Emergency" means a situation in which human burials that have or may have scientific or historic significance are threatened with immediate and unavoidable destruction, or in which there likely will be a loss of scientific data because of the disturbance or destruction of human burials. Emergency situations exist where failure to initiate a scientific investigation immediately would result in irreversible loss of significant information. An emergency may exist regardless of whether the human remains are encountered unexpectedly, or may reasonably be anticipated, or suspected. Such situations include but are not limited to (i) construction projects where avoidance or delays are not possible or would constitute major hardships; (ii) sites where natural processes such as floods or erosion threaten destruction; and (iii) sites where looting is occurring, or is expected to occur within a short period of time.

"Field investigation" means the study of the traces of human culture at any site by means of surveying, sampling, excavation, or removing surface or subsurface material, or going on a site with that intent.

"Human remains" means a human body or any part of a body, particularly skeletal remains, at any stage of deterioration.

"Person" means any natural individual, partnership, association, corporation, or other legal entity.

"Unmarked burial" means grave or location where human remains were intentionally buried but which lacks any marker identifying the person or persons buried there. This may include primary or secondary burials. Any such burial shall constitute evidence of human activity as stated under the above definition of "archaeological site."

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2202 and 10.1-2300 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 1, eff. August 14, 1991.

17VAC5-20-20. Applicability.

This chapter shall apply to any person who conducts any field investigation involving the removal of human remains or associated artifacts from any unmarked burial on an archaeological site; no change in the burial laws of the Commonwealth is intended. This chapter also applies if archaeological investigations are undertaken as part of a court-approved removal of a cemetery.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2202 and 10.1-2300 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 2, eff. August 14, 1991.

17VAC5-20-30. General provisions.

Any person conducting any field investigation involving the removal of human remains or associated artifacts from any unmarked human burial on an archaeological site shall first obtain a permit from the director.

1. No field investigation involving the removal of human remains or associated artifacts from any unmarked human burial on an archaeological site shall be conducted without a permit.

2. In cases where a field investigation may reasonably be anticipated to involve the excavation and removal of human remains or associated artifacts, the person conducting such investigation may obtain a permit prior to the actual discovery of human burials.

3. In any case where human remains are encountered in a field investigation without having received a permit, all work on the burial or burials shall cease until a permit has been obtained.

4. No field investigation involving the removal of human remains or associated artifacts from any unmarked human burial on an archaeological site shall be performed except under the supervision and control of an archaeologist meeting the qualifications stated in 17VAC5-20-40.

5. Any human remains removed in the course of field investigations shall be examined by a skeletal biologist or other specialist meeting the qualifications stated in 17VAC5-20-40.

6. Any approved field investigation shall include an interim progress report summarizing the field portion of the permitted investigation within 60 days of completion of the removal of all human remains and associated artifacts. Reports indicating progress on analysis and report preparation shall be submitted to the department at 90-day intervals until the final report and disposition are accomplished.

7. The applicant shall make the site and laboratory available to the department for purposes of monitoring progress and compliance with this chapter as requested by the department.

8. A copy of the final report including the analysis of materials removed from the burial shall be delivered to the director according to the timetable described in the application.

9. Documentation of final disposition as required by the permit shall be delivered to the department within 15 days of such disposition.

10. Work conducted under a permit will not be considered complete until all reports and documentation have been submitted to and reviewed by the department to meet all conditions cited in this chapter or specified as part of an approved permit.

11. Failure to complete the conditions of the permit within the permitted time limit may result in revocation of the permit and constitute grounds for denial of future applications.

12. The applicant may apply for an extension or change to the conditions of the permit, including changes in research design, principal personnel or disposition, for good cause. Granting such an extension or alteration will be at the discretion of the director, after consultation with interested parties.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2205 and 10.1-2305 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 3, eff. August 14, 1991; amended, Virginia Register Volume 32, Issue 25, eff. September 8, 2016; Errata, 33:2 VA.R. 298 September 19, 2016.

17VAC5-20-40. Permit application.

A. Application for a permit shall be in such form as required by the director, but shall include the following basic information:

1. Name, address, email address, phone number, and institutional affiliation of the applicant.

2. Location and description of the archaeological site for which field investigation is proposed, including site number if assigned.

3. Proof of ownership of the archaeological site or the property on which the field investigation is to be conducted.

4. A written statement of the landowner's permission both to conduct such research and to remove human remains on the landowner's property, and allowing the director or the director's designee access to the field investigation site at any reasonable time for the duration of the permit. The landowner's signature to the written statement shall be notarized.

5. Applicant shall provide a signed statement confirming that adequate resources (financial and otherwise) are available to carry out the approved research design including respectful reburial in an appropriate location.

6. Applicant shall indicate whether or not this permit is being requested as part of a federal, state, or local government undertaking and, if so, shall provide a brief description of the undertaking.

B. A statement of goals and objectives of the project and proposed research design shall be provided as part of the permit application. The research design shall, at a minimum, address the following:

1. How the research design adheres to professionally accepted methods, standards, and processes used to obtain, evaluate, and analyze data on mortuary practices in particular and cultural practices in general.

2. Field documentation which shall include, but not be limited to (i) photographs, (ii) maps, (iii) drawings, and (iv) written records. Collected information shall include, but not be limited to (i) considerations of containment devices, (ii) burial shaft or entombment configuration, (iii) burial placement processes, (iv) skeletal positioning and orientation, (v) evidence of ceremonialism or religious practices, and (vi) grave items or artifacts analyses.

To the extent possible, the cultural information shall be examined at the regional level with appropriate archival research. The results of the evaluation, along with the osteological analysis, will be submitted in report form to the director for review, comment, and final acceptance.

3. The planned osteological examination of the human skeletons which shall include determinations of age, sex, racial affiliation, dental structure, and bone inventories for each individual in order to facilitate comparative studies of bone and dental disease. Said inventories shall provide to the extent possible a precise count of all skeletal elements observed, as well as the degree of preservation (complete or partial); separate tabulation of the proximal and distal joint surfaces for the major long bones should be recorded.

The research design should also address at a minimum the following additional analytical techniques and when they will be used: under what circumstances will bone be examined and x-rayed if necessary, to detect lesions or conditions resulting from disease, malnutrition, trauma, or congenital defects; the presence of dental pathological conditions including carious lesions, premortem tooth loss, and alveolar abscessing to be recorded: craniometric and postcraniometric data to be obtained in a systematic format that provides basic information such as stature; and other techniques as appropriate. Although the initial focus concerns description and documentation of a specific sample, the long-term objective is to obtain information that will facilitate future comparative research. The report based on the osteological analysis should identify the research objectives, method of analysis, and results. Specific data (e.g., measurements, discrete trait observations) supplementing those traits comprising the main body of the report may be provided in a separate file including, for example, tables, graphs, and copies of original data collection forms. Unique pathological specimens should be photographed as part of basic documentation.

4. The expected timetable for excavation, analysis and preparation of the final report on the entire investigation.

C. A resume, vitae, or other statement of qualification shall be provided as part of the permit application demonstrating that the persons planning and supervising the field investigation and subsequent analysis meet the minimum qualifications consistent with the federal standards as cited in 36 CFR 61 and 43 CFR 7, as follows:

1. The qualifications of the archaeologist performing or supervising the work shall include a graduate degree in archaeology, anthropology, or closely related field plus:

a. At least one year of full-time professional experience or equivalent specialized training in archaeological research, administration, or management;

b. At least four months of supervised field and analytic experience in general North American archaeology; and

c. Demonstrated ability to carry research to completion.

In addition, a prehistoric archaeologist shall have at least one year of full-time experience at a supervisory level in the study of archaeological resources of the prehistoric period. An historic archaeologist shall have at least one year of full-time experience at a supervisory level in the study of archaeological resources of the historic period.

2. The qualifications of the skeletal biologist needed to undertake the types of analyses outlined in subdivision B 3 of this section should have at least a master's degree with a specialization in human skeletal biology, bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, or some other field of physical anthropology, plus two years of laboratory experience in the analysis of human skeletal remains. The individual must be able to develop a research design appropriate to the particular circumstances of the study and to conduct analyses of skeletal samples (including age, sex, race, osteometry, identification of osteological and dental disease, and the like), employing state-of-the-art technology. The individual must have the documented ability to produce a concise written report of the findings and their interpretation.

D. Under extraordinary circumstances, the director shall have the authority to waive the requirements of research design and professional qualifications.

E. The permit application shall also include a statement describing the curation, which shall be respectful, and the proposed disposition of the remains upon completion of the research. When any disposition other than reburial is proposed, then the application shall also include a statement of the reasons for alternative disposition and the benefits to be gained thereby. In the absence of special conditions, including those that may come to light during excavation or analysis, this disposition shall be reburial within a two-year period from the date of removal unless requested otherwise by next of kin or other closely affiliated party.

F. When a waiver of public notice or other requirement based on an emergency situation is requested by the applicant then the permit application must include:

1. A statement describing specific threats facing the human skeletal remains or associated artifacts. This statement must make it clear why the emergency justifies the requested waiver.

2. A statement describing the known or expected location of the burials or the factors that suggest the presence of burials.

3. A statement describing the conservation methods that will be used, especially for skeletal material. Note that conservation treatment of bones should be reversible.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2205 and 10.1-2305 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 4, eff. August 14, 1991; amended, Virginia Register Volume 32, Issue 25, eff. September 8, 2016; Errata, 33:2 VA.R. 298 September 19, 2016.

17VAC5-20-50. Public comment.

A. Upon receiving notice from the director that the permit application is complete, the applicant shall arrange for public notification as deemed appropriate by the department.

B. In all cases, the applicant shall publish, or cause to be published, written notice in the following manners: notice in at least one local newspaper of general circulation in the area where the field investigation will occur; notice posted at the site of the graveyard or burial; notice to any historic preservation or other such commission, as well as area historical and genealogical societies; and notice of at least one public hearing. Each notice shall include:

1. The name and address of applicant;

2. A brief description of proposed field investigation;

3. A statement regarding the reason for the proposed relocation;

4. A statement informing the reader that the reader can request a public meeting;

5. A contact name, address, email address, and the phone number where the reader can get more information;

6. The street address of one or more locations in the project vicinity where a copy of the complete application can be viewed by members of the general public during regular business hours;

7. A statement that the complete application can also be reviewed and copied at the department or on the department's website;

8. A statement regarding the proposed disposition of any human remains and associated funerary objects recovered during the permitted recovery process. If any disposition other than reburial is proposed, the notice must specifically request public comment on this aspect of the application; and

9. The deadline for receipt of comments.

The notice shall be of a form approved by the director and shall invite interested persons to express their views on all aspects of the proposed field investigation to the director by a date certain prior to the issuance of the permit. Such notice shall be published once each week for four consecutive weeks.

C. The public notice requirement may be waived:

1. In cases where the applicant has demonstrated that, due to the rarity of the site or its scientific or monetary value and where security is not possible, it is likely that looting or other damage to the burial or surrounding site would occur as a result of the public notice.

2. In the case of an emergency and if, in the opinion of the director, the severity of a demonstrated emergency is such that compliance with the above public notice requirements may result in vandalism, looting, or the loss of significant information, or that the publication of such notice may substantially increase the threat of such loss through vandalism, the director, in such cases, may issue a permit prior to completion of the public notice and comment requirements. The applicant shall provide for such public notice and comment as determined by the director to be appropriate under the circumstances.

D. In cases of marked burials where a permit is sought pursuant to a court order subject to § 57-38.1 or 57-39 of the Code of Virginia, and in accordance with § 10.1-2305 C of the Code of Virginia, the applicant shall provide evidence of a reasonable effort to identify and notify next of kin.

E. In addition to the notification described in subsection B of this section, in the case of both prehistoric and historic Native American burials, the department shall inform the appropriate leaders of state-recognized and federally recognized tribes.

F. The department shall maintain a list of individuals and organizations who have asked to be notified of permit actions. This list will be updated annually and notices sent to all parties currently listed. In all cases notification shall be sent to the appropriate local jurisdiction.

G. Prior to the issuance of a permit, the director may elect to hold a public meeting on the permit application. The purpose of the public meeting shall be to obtain public comment on the proposed field investigations. The director shall decide whether or not to hold a public meeting on a case-by-case basis, and will include any requests following from the public notice in such considerations.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2205 and 10.1-2305 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 5, eff. August 14, 1991; amended, Virginia Register Volume 32, Issue 25, eff. September 8, 2016; Errata, 33:2 VA.R. 298 September 19, 2016.

17VAC5-20-60. Issuance or denial of permit.

A. Upon completion of the public comment period, the director shall decide whether to issue the permit within a 30-day review period. In the event the director received no adverse public comment, no further action is required prior to decision.

B. The director shall consider any comment received and evaluate it in the light of the benefits of the proposed investigation, the severity of any emergency, or the amount of scientific information which may be lost in the event no permit is issued. The director may also take such comments into account in establishing any conditions of the permit. In considering such comment, the director shall give priority to comments and recommendations made by individuals and parties most closely connected with the human burials subject to the application.

C. In making a decision on the permit application, the director shall consider the following:

1. The level of threat facing the human skeletal remains and associated cultural resources.

2. The appropriateness of the goals, objectives, research, design, and qualifications of the applicants to complete the proposed research in a scientific fashion. The director shall consider the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archaeology and Historic Preservation, set out at 48 FR 44716 (September 29, 1983), in determining the appropriateness of the proposed research and in evaluating the qualifications of the applicants.

3. Comments received from the public.

4. The appropriateness of the proposed disposition of remains upon completion of the research. The director may specify a required disposition as a condition of granting the permit.

5. The performance of the applicant on any prior permitted investigation.

6. The applicability of other federal, state and local laws and regulations.

D. Failure to adequately meet all conditions in a previous permit shall be grounds for denial of any subsequent permit applications.

E. In the event the director proposes to deny a permit application, the director shall conduct an informal conference in accordance with § 2.2-4019 of the Administrative Process Act.

F. The permit shall contain such conditions which, in the judgment of the director, will protect the excavated human remains or associated artifacts.

G. A permit shall be valid for a period of time to be determined by the director as appropriate under the circumstances.

H. The director may extend or change the period or conditions of the permit or the period of analysis as noted in subdivision 12 of 17VAC5-20-30. In order to obtain such an extension or change the applicant must submit a written request demonstrating good cause. "Good cause" may include but not be limited to situations in which many more burials were encountered than were expected in the original permit application or where a new analytical technique or question will be applied within an expanded term of the permit. In making any decision to extend a permit, the director will consult with appropriate interested parties as identified in the initial public review.

I. The director may revoke any permit issued under this chapter for good cause shown. Such revocation shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Administrative Process Act.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2205 and 10.1-2305 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 6, eff. August 14, 1991; amended, Virginia Register Volume 32, Issue 25, eff. September 8, 2016; Errata, 33:2 VA.R. 298 September 19, 2016.

17VAC5-20-70. Excavations by the department.

The director may perform or cause to be performed a field investigation without a permit. The director shall comply with the public notice and comment provisions described above. All work conducted by the department under this clause shall meet the substantive requirements as set out in 17VAC5-20-40.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2202 and 10.1-2300 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 7, eff. August 14, 1991.

17VAC5-20-80. Appeals.

A. The decision of the director made following the informal conference required by subsection D of 17VAC5-20-60 shall be a final case decision subject to judicial review in accordance with the Administrative Process Act, § 9-6.14:1 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

B. Any interested party may appeal the director's decision to issue a permit or to act directly to excavate human remains to the local circuit court in accordance with § 10.1-2305 E of the Code of Virginia.

Statutory Authority

§§ 10.1-2202 and 10.1-2300 et seq. of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR390-01-02 § 8, eff. August 14, 1991.

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