Archaeology

Illinois public lands, which are owned or managed by various municipal bodies, counties, park districts, forest preserves, and state agencies, contain numerous important archaeological and paleontological sites. Under the Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act (Act) and its administrative rules, the responsibility for the protection of these sites rests with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). All archaeological and paleontological research and investigations on public lands require a permit from the SHPO. The Act also provides strict penalties for vandalism and theft of archaeological and paleontological resources.

A unique aspect of Illinois archaeology is its underwater and shipwreck resources. The State of Illinois owns more than one million acres of the bed of Lake Michigan. Its waters contain hundreds of historic shipwrecks dating to Chicago's heyday as a major shipping port. Locating, inventorying, and researching these historic wrecks is an ongoing project that is being carried out in conjunction with local maritime and diving groups.

Also, under the Act, standards are established to evaluate and certify professional archaeologists in the state.  The Illinois State Museum and the SHPO maintain a statewide file of known archaeological and paleontological sites, the Illinois Inventory of Archaeological Sites, which can be accessed by professionals with proper credentials. SHPO staff also assist developers, contractors, and other government agencies with technical and legal advice on the preservation, protection, and scientific excavation of resources on public lands. Additionally, the SHPO has staff trained to assist law enforcement personnel in the collection of evidence and damage assessments during the investigation of looting and vandalism on public lands. Contact Jeff Kruchten, SHPO Chief Archaeologist, at (217) 785-1279 or Jeffery.Kruchten@illinois.gov for permit applications, access to the Illinois Inventory of Archaeological Sites, or general archaeology queries. Current guidelines for conducting archaeological research in Illinois can be found here. The standard Archaeological Survey Short Report can be downloaded here.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Office of Realty & Capital Planning now administers the Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act, which protects burials, burial markers (including Native American mounds), and burial artifacts from disturbance, including vandalism, defacement, destruction, sale, exchange, excavation, or removal. The law applies to all marked and unmarked graves that are more than 100 years old and located in cemeteries that are not registered or licensed with the Illinois Comptroller's office. Under this act all unregistered human remains and burial artifacts are held in trust ownership by the State of Illinois. A permit from the IDNR is required for any disturbance or removal, including archaeological investigations. Contact Dawn Cobb at (217) 785-4992, or Dawn.Cobb@illinois.gov