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Protection of Historic Sites

Almost a century ago, Congress passed the first of many laws protecting archaeological sites, both historic and prehistoric, on federal property. Today, similar Illinois state laws apply to all public land and, in specific circumstances, to private land as well. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is responsible for theadministration of these laws:

The Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act.

This law became effective on January 1, 1989 and applies to all public lands in Illinois. The law contains criminal sanctions for those who disturb burial mounds, human remains, shipwrecks or other archaeological resources as well as fossils on public lands.

Human Grave Protection Act.

Effective August 11, 1989, this law forbids disturbance of human skeletal remains and grave markers in unregistered cemeteries, including isolated graves and burial mounds that are at least 100 years old. Another law protects younger graves and registered cemeteries. It is the intent of this law that “all human burials be accorded equal treatment and respect for human dignity, without reference to ethnic origins, cultural backgrounds or religious affiliations.”

The Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Protection Act.

Agencies of Illinois government are required to notify the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency of any undertaking that may adversely affect an archaeological property (historic or prehistoric). The Historic Preservation Agency may require survey and testing of resource areas. This law became effective January 1, 1990.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.

This Federal statute authorizes the National Register of Historic places, establishes the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and, under Section 106, the Council’s powers to review Federal undertakings that affect historic properties.

Protecting Archaeological Sites

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources owns and manages thousands of archaeological sites on land it oversees. The Archaeological and Paleontological Resource Protection Act protects these sites and the artifacts contained within them from looting and vandalism. It is illegal for anyone to either collect or engage in digging into an archaeological site on public lands. Although prohibited by law, the looting of sites on both public and private lands is a serious problem. If you notice illicit digging at an archaeological site or witness someone collecting artifacts on a site at a state park, the Department of Natural Resources asks you to contact either the DNR Cultural Resource Coordinator at (217) 782-3715 or the local park superintendent so measures can be taken to protect the site.