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Recommended Inadvertent Human Remains Discovery Language

For more information contact:

Guy Tasa
State Physical Anthropologist
(360) 790-1633


Jackie Berger
Assistant State Physical Anthropologist
(360) 890-2633

In an effort to standardize language as to be consistent with state law, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation offers the following text relating to the inadvertent discovery of human skeletal remains to be used in the development of inadvertent discovery protocols:

Inadvertent Discovery of Human Skeletal Remains on Non-Federal and Non-Tribal Land in the State of Washington (RCWs 68.50.645, 27.44.055, and 68.60.055)

"If ground disturbing activities encounter human skeletal remains during the course of construction, then all activity will cease that may cause further disturbance to those remains. The area of the find will be secured and protected from further disturbance until the State provides notice to proceed.  The finding of human skeletal remains will be reported to the county medical examiner/coroner and local law enforcement in the most expeditious manner possible.  The remains will not be touched, moved, or further disturbed. The county medical examiner/coroner will assume jurisdiction over the human skeletal remains and make a determination of whether those remains are forensic or non-forensic.  If the county medical examiner/coroner determines the remains are non-forensic, then they will report that finding to the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) who will then take jurisdiction over the remains.  The DAHP will notify any appropriate cemeteries and all affected tribes of the find.  The State Physical Anthropologist will make a determination of whether the remains are Indian or Non-Indian and report that finding to any appropriate cemeteries and the affected tribes.  The DAHP will then handle all consultation with the affected parties as to the future preservation, excavation, and disposition of the remains."

ACHP Policy Statement on Burial Sites, Human Remains, and Funerary Objects

The ACHP has providing the following advice to all federal agencies for the development of unanticipated discovery stipulations in Section 106 agreements (such as Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) and Programmatic Agreements (PAs)) when burial sites, human remains or funerary objects could be encountered during the implementation of an undertaking. This is an updated version of its 2007 policy statement. The policy advances 13 principles, with the main guiding principle that burial sites, human remains, and funerary objects should be treated with dignity and respect in all circumstances including, but not limited to, all times in consultation, during field surveys, when handling must occur, in documenting and/or reporting, if treatment actions occur, and in all other forms of interaction.  Please note that DAHP still expects people to follow State human remains law off federal lands. 

This template statement can be added to a stipulation tailored to the specific circumstances of an individual undertaking. While such a statement is not required, agencies are strongly encouraged to follow the principles in the policy statement and incorporate the reference when consulting to develop new MOAs and PAs. 

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