Archaeology in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Preservation and Heritage Commission is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Rhode Island's archaeological resources. Our responsibilities include maintaining records of all known archaeological sites in the state, which currently number over 2800. We work with other state agencies to protect archaeological sites on state lands and beneath state waters, monitor all archaeological explorations within those jurisdictions, and review and permit all archaeological projects within the state that require funding or permits from state and/or federal agencies.

For more information about the RIHPHC archaeology program, contact Charlotte Taylor (401-222-4140).

FAQs: May I...

The answer is circumstantial. Artifacts from archaeological sites in Rhode Island generally belong to the owners of properties on which they are found, though burial items and human remains are typically excluded. Artifacts from archaeological sites, both terrestrial and submerged, under state and federal jurisdiction are almost always protected by law. Though some private landowners may allow artifact collectors to search their properties, the RIHPHC discourages such arrangements primarily because they undermine the conservation of archaeological sites as non-renewable resources.

Consistent with the Antiquities Act of Rhode Island (RIGL 42-45.1 et seq.), the RIHPHC maintains that a state archaeological permit is prerequisite to removing artifacts from archaeologically sensitive, or potentially archaeologically sensitive, state properties, and does not issue such permits to recreational artifact collectors including those who use metal detecting technology. The RIHPHC generally excludes the mobile sands along state beaches from its archaeological permitting authority because they are of low archaeological sensitivity.

Yes. Visit the the Staff Directory to contact the RIHPHC staff archaeologist.

Archaeological site locations are generally considered confidential and public access to such information is restricted by federal laws including:

Though a member of the public may submit a request to access a specific archeological site record, its information content would likely be redacted by RIHPHC prior to transmittal in compliance with the above cited laws.