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Archaeological Permitting

For more information contact:

James Macrae
Assistant State Archaeologist
(564) 669-0899

In the State of Washington any alteration to an archaeological site requires a permit from DAHP RCW 27.44 and RCW 27.53.  Archaeological sites are defined under RCW 27.53 .030(3) as places that contain archaeological objects.  All sites with objects that pre-date the historic era (prehistoric) require a permit, regardless of the level of “disturbance.”  Alterations to a site can include adding fill, building on, removing trees, using heavy equipment on, compacting, or other activities that would change or potentially impact the site.

Alterations also include formal archaeological excavation, removal, and collection of archaeological materials, and the excavation and removal of Native American human remains.

Permits are also required to remove or excavate historic archaeological resources that are eligible or listed in the National Register of Historic Places or to recover any submerged historic aircraft or historic shipwrecks, or remove any archaeological object from such sites.

Please note that any person, agency, landowner, firm, corporation, or any agency or institution of the state or subdivisions of the state who wishes to alter an archaeological site must obtain a permit.  DAHP does not charge a fee to process the permit application or to issue a permit.

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There are penalties for failing to obtain a permit, or failing to comply with the conditions on a permit.  In addition to possible criminal charges, there are monetary penalties. Penalties for not obtaining a permit, or failure to comply with permit conditions include

  • $5000 civil penalty, and
  • Responsibility for site restoration/mitigation costs and
  • Responsibility for investigative costs

Site restoration and investigative costs can be quite costly and can exceed the $5000 civil penalty.  In addition, unpermitted excavation of human remains carries felony criminal charges and in the case of Indian remains, may be subject to a civil suit by an Indian tribe.

  • DAHP is now accepting electronically signed coversheets for Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit Applications.  To start the e-signature process, send an email to with a request to start the application process.  In your request, be sure to provide names and email addresses for the applicant (Professional Archaeologist) and co-applicant(s) to be named on the permit.

The complete permit requirements can be found in the Washington Administrative Code 25-48-060.  In addition to submitting a signed application, there are 21 potential sections for a complete permit application, depending on the type of resource, nature of your excavation or recovery, and land ownership. Over the years we have noticed that certain items tend to be underreported or are missing from many permit applications. Tracking down these deficiencies slows down the process.  If items are missing from your permit application, your application will be returned to you for completion of the missing items.  Here are some tips:

  1. Review your project or your client's project for any federal permits, funding or licensing. If there are federal permits, licenses, approvals, monies, or agencies involved in or regulating the project, your project must comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations. You will need to contact the lead federal agency regarding site evaluation.  
  2. Once a completed application is received by our office copies will be sent to affected Indian Tribes, the Association of Washington Archaeology, affected local governments, and landowners. To expedite your permit, we recommend you include a list of names and addresses of relevant persons and agencies for your permit review.
  3. There is no longer a need to submit multiple paper copies of permit applications.  You may submit your permit application as a pdf via email.   However, the original cover sheet is still required to be submitted via traditional mail. 
  4. Take time to answer all information requirements found in WAC 25-48-060. When describing the project activities and impacts, please note DAHP relies on text and maps to understand what work is proposed and what actions will occur.  Even if plans are submitted with your application, all proposed activities must be described in detail in the text of the application. 
  5. Note items (i) and (k). The best way to provide evidence of your financial ability to complete the work, including laboratory and report writing, and your client's concurrence, is to submit a letter from the client stating they agree to finance your project to completion, which includes analysis and report writing.  Another option is to submit a copy of your signed contract with your client with the dollar amounts redacted. If your client is not the landowner, don't forget an additional letter allowing your access onto their property.
  6. Provide clear maps and graphics. Be sure your graphics clearly show a datum and a north arrow.
  7. We strongly encourage you to develop the application cooperatively with the concerned tribes, local government planning office, and local museums.
  8. For your overall project, please remember to plan for the time interval an application has for review and processing.   The general time span for receiving a permit after submittal to our office is approximately 60 calendar days.

Please feel free to call James Macrae, Assistant State Archaeologist, if you have any questions at (564) 669-0899 or email him at

Note: As of June 2022, our Archaeological Site Alteration and Excavation Permit Application Cover Sheet process has changed. We now use an e-signature process to fill out the cover sheet instead of requiring hand-signed copies be mailed to DAHP.

The Governor's Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance publishes details about most of the commonly required permits in the state and has links to regulatory agencies statewide.  To access the central repository of Permit Timeliness Data click here.