Site File Services
The Archaeological Site File
One of the primary functions of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) is to maintain records of all archaeological sites recorded in the state. As of 2016, there are over 26,000 prehistoric and historic sites in our database. The Site File Curators manage this archive, making information available as needed and adding to it as new discoveries are made. Archaeologists may make an appointment to come to our offices in Nashville to perform site file research.
Archaeologists may make an appointment to come to our offices in Nashville to perform site file research. When you make the appointment, we ask that you provide us with a topographic map marked with your specific geographic area of interest and, if you have not been to our offices before, a current resume or curriculum vitae for our files. We are typically available for appointments Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.
For information about whether there is a recorded site in a particular area, we can provide a brief map check via email or phone call. If you are an engineer, planner, land manager, or landowner we can tell you whether there is a known archaeological site in your specific area of interest. Performing map checks during the project planning process and prior to any ground disturbing activities can help to avoid the destruction of significant archaeological resources, prevent disturbance of human remains, and help to avoid unexpected delays during project construction. Keep in mind that much of the state has not been surveyed for archaeological resources; therefore project areas may contain as-yet-unidentified archaeological resources. In addition, please note that map checks are not a substitute for a full archaeological background research study.
Due to the high volume of requests, we no longer provide map checks for planned cell tower locations. Please contact us to make an appointment to do site file research.
Reporting Archaeological Sites
Landowners or interested members of the public can report archaeological sites by contacting us either by phone or email.
Professional archaeologists should contact us for the most current version of the site form and, if needed, request a preliminary review to determine whether a site number is warranted. Please note that we do not assign site numbers to domestic historic sites that lack convincing evidence of pre-1933 occupation. To update previously recorded site records, please email us with a brief narrative describing your survey, including any changes to cultural affiliation, site boundary, eligibility recommendation, date of investigation, and anticipated report title and author.
For more information or to inquire about any of the site file services listed above, please contact one of our Site File Curators:
Federal Programs Review
The TDOA provides archaeological review and compliance services to the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) through a contract with the Tennessee Historical Commission. Questions regarding Section 106 review may be addressed to the Federal Programs Archaeologist Jennifer Barnett, at 615-687-4780 or by email at Jennifer.Barnett@tn.gov. Additional information and resources regarding Section 106 review are available at the Tennessee Historical Commission website.
The TDOA is responsible for issuing permits for archaeological work to be conducted on State lands. Archaeologists must receive a permit from the TDOA before beginning any archaeological investigations on State lands. For more information about State Archaeological Permits click here.
The Division offers information and guidance to a wide variety of entities seeking archaeological assistance. These entities include governmental agencies, private consultants, law enforcement, academics, avocational archaeologists, and the general public. Public outreach opportunities, such as school presentations, are accommodated as Division staff schedules allow.
Archaeological Site Concerns
The Division of Archaeology often receives calls from citizens concerned about the potential destruction of archaeological sites by ongoing and proposed development projects. The Division can provide general information regarding the archaeological background of the project area, guidance to developers and/or local planning agencies as appropriate. There is no state law that requires private landowners to avoid disturbing archaeological sites, even if known sites are present on their property.
Human Remains and Burials
The TDOA often receives and responds to reports of disturbed human remains. If a burial is uncovered during development or construction, the Division may assist the builder and/or landowner in considering options to avoid the burial(s). If avoidance is not feasible then the builder and/or landowner must follow the legal process to move the grave. State cemetery laws require a court order prior to removing a human burial (ancient or modern). In the state of Tennessee it is illegal to knowingly tamper with, excavate, or otherwise disinter any human burials or funerary objects without legal permission (TCA 46-4-101).
If a developer or citizen encounters disturbed human burials on private property, they must stop work in the immediate area and notify local law enforcement and the State Archaeologist. If you wish to report the disturbance of human remains, please email State Archeologist Mike Moore at Mike.C.Moore@tn.gov or call 615-687-4776.
The historic cemeteries fact sheet (link below) provides some guidance regarding historic cemeteries. The Division does not survey cemetery locations and boundaries or maintain a directory of known historic cemeteries. Individuals needing cemetery delineation services should contract with a private archaeological consultant (Link Below). Individuals with legal questions or issues should acquire the services of legal counsel and/or contact local law enforcement. For general questions about historic cemeteries, please contact Division Historical Archaeologist, Ben Nance, at 615-687-4779 or through email at Benjamin.Nance@tn.gov.
Tennessee Archaeology Network
The Tennessee State Museum
The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture
The C.H. Nash Museum Chucalissa
Native History Association
Tennessee History for Kids
Archaeology in Tennessee
Archaeology on TVA Lands