Bureau FAQs

For more information on specific topics, please visit our Underwater Archaeology FAQ, and Master Site File FAQ. If you have additional questions that are not answered here or need further assistance, please contact the Bureau of Archaeological Research.

Q: What is archaeology?
A: Archaeology is the anthropological study of past human cultures through systematic recovery of material remains such as buildings, tools, and pottery. For more information about archaeological related terms please visit the Archeology-Related Glossaries index hosted by the National Park Service.

Q: Can I dig for artifacts?
A: It is illegal to dig for artifacts without the landowner's permission. On state-owned and controlled lands, including sovereignty-submerged lands, the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research grants permission to conduct archaeological investigations. Digging for artifacts on state lands without a permit from DHR is a third degree felony (Chapters 267.061 and 267.12-13, Florida Statutes, and Rule 1A-32 of the Florida Administrative Code). Digging on Federal land also requires a permit and illegal digging is a felony offense. Contact the federal land manager for more information on obtaining permission to dig on federal lands.

Q: What does the Bureau of Archaeological Research do?
A: The Bureau is entrusted with the maintenance, preservation and protection of over 12,000 years of Florida heritage. Archaeological and historical resources on state-owned and state-controlled lands, including sovereignty submerged lands, are the direct responsibility of the Bureau. This includes the management of Mission San Luis, a research and educational site located in Tallahassee and open to the public. The Bureau is divided into areas of responsibility, including Collections and Conservation, Mission San Luis, Education and Research, Public Lands Archaeology (PLA) program, and Underwater Archaeology. The five sections work together to ensure that Florida archaeological heritage will endure for future generations.

Q: Why preserve archaeological sites?
A: Archaeological sites consist of much more than the artifacts displayed in museums. The placement of artifacts in relation to other artifacts and environmental features in a site provides clues as to their function, method of manufacture or loss. This information is known as the context of an archaeological site and it can often provide more information about past human behavior than the artifacts themselves, but it is also more fragile. When artifacts are moved, or the site disrupted, the context is destroyed, and unlike a pot that can be glued back together, when context is destroyed it can never be recreated. Archaeologists make every effort to record aspects of a site during excavation, using field notes, maps, drawings and photographs to document the site's context.

Q: What do I do if I see damage or looting of archaeological sites?
A: If you see looting or damage of archaeological sites, notify the landowner or local law enforcement. If it is on state-owned or controlled land, contact local law enforcement and the Bureau of Archaeological Research at (850) 245-6444. If human remains are involved, see the next question.

Q: What do I do if I see disturbance of unmarked human remains?
A: It is a felony to knowingly disturb human remains. If you observe disturbance of unmarked human remains, it is a misdemeanor if you do not report it. Contact local law enforcement or your district Medical Examiner immediately. For more information, visit /archaeology/FS872/

Q: What are the requirements for an archaeological research permit on state lands?
A: To obtain an archaeological research permit, you or someone in your organization must have professional archaeological expertise that meets the Secretary of the Interior qualifications. For more information and to download an application, consult the 1A-32 Permit web page.

Q: What is the difference between fossils and artifacts?
A: A fossil is of non-human origin (e.g. animal bone) that has not been altered by humans in any way. An artifact is a product of human activity including bone and shell tools and ornaments, ceramic vessels, metal objects, etc.

Q: What is underwater archaeology?
A: For more information on underwater archaeology, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions of Underwater Archaeology.

Q: How can I participate in an archaeological dig?
A: There are a number of ways to participate in archaeological investigations. The Florida Anthropological Society and its chapters offer opportunities in various parts of the state. Universities, museums, and other institutions of higher education also provide opportunities for the public to participate in excavations and artifact analysis.

Q: How do I become an archaeologist?
A: Those interested in pursuing a career in archaeology should plan on obtaining at least a bachelor's degree in anthropology from an accredited university, and completing a field school. In most states, archaeologists must have a Masters degree or higher in order to hold research permits or receive funding. Depending upon your specific research interests, organizations such as the American Anthropological Association, Society for American Archaeology, and Society for Historical Archaeology have directories of undergraduate and graduate archaeology programs in the United States and abroad. For those who are interested in archaeology as a hobby, the easiest way to become involved is to contact your local archaeological society; in Florida there are regional chapters of the Florida Anthropological Society.

Q: How does the state obtain artifacts?
A: Artifacts are held in trust by the Bureau for the citizens of the state and are available for researchers. Chapter 267.061 (1)(b) grants title to the Division of Historical Resources all artifacts recovered from state-owned and controlled lands, including sovereignty submerged lands. Usually, artifacts from state land are recovered during state-sponsored research, or projects operating under a 1A-32 research permit. Following guidelines in the Florida Administrative Code (1A-40), the Bureau also accepts private donations.

Q: How do I access state artifact collections?
A: Contact Bureau collections staff at 850/ 245-6444 for assistance or information about loans of artifacts to museums or other public exhibit venues, loans for research purposes, or for other information such as what types of artifacts, archaeological sites or historic eras are represented in the state archaeological collections.

Q: What do I do if I find a dugout canoe?
A: Visit our site on prehistoric canoes for more information.

Q: How do I find information about archaeological sites in Florida?
A: Information can be obtained online from the Bureau of Archaeological Research and Florida Park Service about archaeological state parks that are open to the public. General information about sites can be found in any of the texts listed in the bibliography. The Florida Master Site File is a paper file archive and computer database of over 180,000 documented historical structures and archaeological sites in Florida. Contact Florida Master Site File staff at (850)245-6440 or for assistance with obtaining information related to specific sites.

Q: Do fossils fall under the same regulations as artifacts?
A: In order to protect and preserve fossils and paleontology sites, the State of Florida has declared that all vertebrate fossils found on state-owned lands belong to the state with title vested in the Florida Museum of Natural History. The Museum administers a permitting program intended to regulate the buying, selling, or trading of vertebrate fossils found on state-owned land, or the systematic and continued collection from a paleontological site. Application for a permit can be made to: Florida Program of Vertebrate Paleontology, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. A permit is not required for happenstance or casual retrieval of vertebrate fossils, or for the collection of invertebrate fossils (such as shellfish, coral, and sponges) and fossil shark teeth.

Q: Is metal detecting prohibited on state property?
A: Metal detecting on State land is generally prohibited with few exceptions. Many public beaches allow metal detecting between the high tide line and the toe of the dune. Beaches that are part of State and Federal Parks, Preserves, Sanctuaries, and military installations will have specific rules governing metal detecting; always consult with the park or property manager.