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The Law and American Indian Grave Protection

Iowa Laws

State statutes on Protecting Ancient Burials and Ancient Human Skeletal Remains may be found here. The statutes include:
263B.7 Ancient remains.
263B.8 Cemetery for ancient remains.
716.5 Criminal mischief in the third degree.
Under the Iowa Administrative Code for Ancient Human Skeletal Remains, Iowa Administrative Code Ancient Human Skeletal Remains 685-11.1 concerns procedures.

The background for the burial laws, including ancient burial mounds and non-mound burials, fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Archaeologist (Iowa Code Chapter 263B, Iowa Administrative Code 685-11). The right for burials to remain undisturbed is based in old English law. A recent court case in Iowa affirmed this right and determined that implementation of state laws that protect burial sites does not constitute a taking [519 N.W. 2nd 367 (Iowa 1994)]. Management suggestions for burial sites can be found here.
Information on Archaeological Surveys and Accidental Discoveries.
Iowa's Program for Protecting Ancient Burials and the OSA Burials Program.
Iowa's Highway Archaeology Program.

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.

Code Book: Iowa Code
Citation: 263B. 7 through 263B. 9
Section Title: Ancient remains; cemetery for ancient remains; authority to deny permission to disinter human remains


(7) Directs the state archeologist to take primary responsibility for investigating, preserving and reinterring discoveries of ancient human remains. Defines ancient human remains for the purpose of this section as those remains found within the state that are more than 150 years old. Directs the state archeologist to arrange for the services of a forensic osteologist in studying and interpreting ancient burials and to designate other archeologists to assist in recovering physical and cultural information about the ancient burials. Requires the state archeologist to file with the Department of Public Health a written report containing both physical and cultural information regarding the remains at the conclusion of each investigation. (8) Directs the state archeologist to establish, with the approval of the executive council, a cemetery on existing state lands for the reburial of ancient human remains found in the state, which cemetery shall not be open to the public. Directs the state archeologist, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources, to be responsible for coordinating interment in the cemetery. (9) Authorizes the state archeologist to deny permission to disinter human remains that have state or national significance from a historical or scientific standpoint for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

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

Code Book: Iowa Code
Citation: 716.5
Section Title: Damage to property: criminal mischief in the third degree


Declares that a person commits criminal mischief in the third degree, which is a criminal misdemeanor, who intentionally disinters human remains from a burial site without lawful authority or intentionally disinters human remains that have state and national significance from a historical or scientific standpoint without the permission of the state archeologist.

Primary Topic: Archeological Activities

    Secondary Topic:
    • Disposition of Human Remains
    • Violation / Penalty / Enforcement

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

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