The public, including a vocational archaeologists, artifact collectors, and property owners, plays an important role in this mission, including discovering, recording, preserving, and understanding Ohio’s history. Archaeological sites recorded with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office can sometimes be protected from construction projects which would otherwise destroy them. Often construction projects can be redesigned to avoid destroying important archaeological sites, but only if the Ohio Historic Preservation Office knows about their existence before construction begins.
Each year archaeologists in the Ohio Historic Preservation Office review thousands of federal and some state projects for their effects on archaeological sites. We maintain paper and computerized maps and other records of all known sites in Ohio, and coordinate archaeology programs including grants for archaeological survey and excavation, and permits to collect artifacts or conduct archaeological investigations on state lands.
Prior to conducting archaeological investigations on state property in Ohio, it is necessary to seek permission from the relevant state agency and to obtain a permit from the Ohio Historical Society. Likewise, it is illegal to collect artifacts from any federal property without first obtaining a permit from the federal government. Collecting artifacts from private property without permission from the property owner is also illegal. Theft of artifacts from private property and transporting them across state lines may also be a violation of the Archeological Resources Protection Act, a federal law. The criminal and civil penalties associated with violations of this law can be severe. To discourage such activities and to punish the guilty, the federal government is actively pursuing cases of this nature.
With the goal of increased cooperation between the Ohio Historic Preservation Office and the public in mind, in 1986 the Ohio Historic Preservation Office developed a Preliminary Documentation Form for Archaeological Sites. Over 2000 sites have been reported to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office by the public using the Preliminary Documentation Form. This cooperation has helped the Ohio Historic Preservation Office in its work with federal, state, and local agencies and others in our goal to identify, evaluate, and protect important archaeological sites. The information provided on the Preliminary Documentation Form also is of great research value, and the site numbers assigned to each site are often used by artifact collectors and a vocational archaeologists to catalog and keep accurate records of their collections.
Site location information is only shared with federal, state, and local agencies and other responsible people who need to know or who are working with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office to identify, evaluate, and protect important archaeological sites. This includes government agencies, archaeologists, planners, and developers. The public can also participate in this information sharing. The first step is to record basic site information on the Preliminary Documentation Form.
Recording archaeological sites with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office does not affect property owners’ rights to develop their property or to continue current land use practices, such as agriculture. Nor does it mean that archaeologists from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office or another agency are going to confiscate artifacts in collections from such sites or attempt to take control over the property through eminent domain. If property owners are interested in protecting important archaeological sites on their property from future development and destruction the Ohio Historic Preservation Office will work with them to do so.