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Recommended Inadvertent Human Remains Discovery Language

For more information contact:

Guy Tasa
State Physical Anthropologist
(360) 790-1633


Alex Garcia-Putnam
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."

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