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The Law and American Indian Grave Protection

Alabama Laws

When contacted April 2001 as to burial laws, Greg Rhinehart, Alabama's State Archaeologist specifically referred to Citation 13A-7-23.1 and the Alabama Historical Commission Chapter 460-x-10 and sent material on them reproduced at the links above.

Aboriginal mounds and burials are covered in Citation: Aboriginal Mounds, Earthworks and Other Antiquities (Alabama Code 41-3-1 to 41-3-6); Alabama Cemetery and Human Remains Protection Act (93-905); Burials (Alabama Historical Commission Chapter 460-x-10). The Aboriginal Mounds, Earthworks and Other Antiquities Act claims state ownership of all antiquities in the state including mounds, prehistoric burials; prehistoric and historic forts and earthworks; and the materials contained within these resources. Non-state residents are prohibited from excavating these resources although private land owners may allow a non-resident to excavate mounds and burials on private lands so long as the artifacts remain in the state. Further, the law specifically states that excavation should not damage crops or houses on private lands. Alabama places responsibility for implementing its preservation laws in the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC), which is responsible for the issuing of permits for the excavation, relocation, and/or restoration of cemeteries and human remains. All permits are issued by the Director of the AHC after consultation and coordination between interested or concerned parties including, where appropriate, the Indian Affairs Commission and other groups representing significant cultural or ethnic affiliations. If burials to be disturbed for any reason have been interred for 75 years or longer, or the date of interment is undetermined, the permittee shall consult with the AHC. Any person who knows of the discovery of human remains and/or funerary objects on state or private land ceases any and all land-disturbing activity and notifies the AHC immediately. Any person who willfully or maliciously desecrates an American Indian place of burial or funerary objects on property not owned by that person, or injures, defaces, removes or destroys any tomb, monument or container of human remains, and invades or mutilates the human corpse or remains is guilty of a Class C felony.

Summaries follow of burial/archaeological laws yielded through a keyword search for "archaeology" and "burial" on 2001 March 30 at the State Historic Preservation Legislation Database found at the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) web site, that database then updated through 1999. These summaries are reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law which may be found at is not responsible for any inaccuracies or timeliness of information.

Alabama Historical Commission Chapter 460-x-10. This link goes to a summary made available by the Alabama State Archaeologist.

Code Book: Code of Alabama
Citation: 13A-7-23.1. This link goes to a summary made available by the Alabama State Archaeologist.
Section Title: Desecration, defacement, etc., of memorial of dead


(d) Directs the Alabama Historical Commission to promulgate rules and regulations for the issuance of permits to provide for the lawful preservation, investigation, restoration or relocation of human burial remains, human skeletal remains or funerary objects and enables the commission to issue such permits to persons or companies who seek to restore, preserve or relocate such remains or funerary objects, or otherwise disturb a place of burial.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Disposition of Human Remains
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority

Code Book: Code of Alabama
Citation: 41- 3-1 through 41-3-6
Section Title: Aboriginal mounds, earthworks and other antiquities
Date Enacted: 1915, amended 1993.


Reserves for the state the exclusive right and privilege to explore, excavate or survey through its authorized officers, agents or employees, all aboriginal mounds and other antiquities, earthworks, ancient forts and burial sites within the state, subject to the consent of the owner of the land upon which such remains are situated, for cultural, domestic or industrial purposes. Prohibits such explorations or excavations from destroying, defacing or permanently injuring such remains, and requires that the remains be restored to the same condition as before such explorations or excavations were made. Declares ownership by the state of any and all objects which may be located therein, and forbids sale or disposal of such objects outside of the state. Prohibits persons not resident of the state from exploring or excavating such remains. Establishes a fine of not more than $1000 for each offense that is contrary to this section.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Permit / Site Investigation Authority
    • Violation / Penalty / Enforcement
Primary Topic: Ethnic / Racial Historic Preservation Issues
    Secondary Topic:
    • Native American Burial and Other Preservation Issues
Primary Topic: Specific Historic Property Types
    Secondary Topic:
    • Mounds
Jurisdiction: All state and private lands.
Statute of Limitations: Not specified.
Areas Covered Under Act: Human remains and funerary objects.
Ownership: State ownership of all antiquities on state lands.
Review/Consultation Committee: Alabama Historical Commission consults with the Indian Affairs Commission.
Liable: Anyone who illegally disturbs human burial sites.
Penalties: Violations of burial law is a class C felony; violations of archaeological sites is a misdemeanor with fines up to $1000, or up to one year in jail, or both.
Exemptions: Not specified.
Permitting: The Alabama Historical Commission issues excavation permits.

Code Book: Code of Alabama
Citation: 41- 9-709
Section Title: Alabama Indian Affairs Commission


Declares it to be a purpose of the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission to promote the recognition of the right of Indians to pursue cultural and religious traditions considered by them to be sacred and meaningful.

Primary Topic: Ethnic / Racial Historic Preservation Issues

    Secondary Topic:
    • Native American Burial and Other Preservation Issues


State Historic Preservation Legislation Database, keyword search for burial and archaeology 30 March 2001

Resource for blue text is the Update of Compilation of State Repatriation, Reburial and Grave Protection Laws (July 1997), Prepared for the Natural Resources Conservation Service under order number 40-3A75-7-102, by Kathleen Schamel for CEHP Incorporated P.O. Box 56462 Washington, DC 20040-6462 TEL: (202) 293-1774 FAX: (202) 722-1129 is not responsible for any inaccuracies or timeliness of information.

Return to State laws
State Historic Preservation Legislation Database. Search by state and keywords for legislation.
Alabama government, preservation and state archaeological resource links.

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