Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Division of State Archaeology

The following information about DHR initiatives, programs, and resources offers ways to encourage and support the identification, stewardship, and use of Virginia’s archaeological resources for educational and cultural benefits.

Virginia Archaeology Network:  Offers information and links to places and websites that focus on archaeology in Virginia and beyond.

Ask an Archaeologist: Do you have an artifact you’ve found in Virginia that you would like to know about? Send us a photo or several of good quality and focus. Ideally, the photo(s) will have a scale – a ruler or a coin or something recognizable pictured next to the object so that we can get a sense of the size of the item. Also, please let us know approximately where the item was found. Our team of experts will get together, identify the item, and give it some context—its function, and who would have used it and where it was made, etc. We are interested in both historic and pre-contact period artifacts—broken or whole. It doesn’t matter, just ask an archaeologist. See this listing of queries and responses.

Teaching Archaeology:  Learn about resources available to schools, organizations, and museums for teaching Virginia archaeology. DHR has Archaeological Resource Kits (ARKs) available for classroom use. One ARK covers topics in archaeology for Virginia Indians, another covers African American–associated artifacts and archaeology.

2019 Archaeology Month poster.

Virginia Archaeology Month: Every October, Virginia celebrates archaeology at libraries, museums, historical societies, clubs, and at active archaeological sites. The theme of DHR’s poster for 2019 is the agency’s project to re-conserve artifacts recovered from Betsy, a ship the British scuttled during the Revolutionary War and the Siege of Yorktown. Betsy was excavated by DHR archaeologists working underwater in the York River during the 1980s. Artifacts recovered from the ship are now in need of re-treatment to preserve them for future research and display in museum exhibitions. A National Park Service Maritime Heritage Grant allowed DHR to hire a conservator to conduct the re-conservation work.

For more information about archaeology month or to receive a copy of this year’s poster, please contact Laura Galke, Chief Curator, State Archaeology Division (804 /482-6441). (See obverse side of 2019 poster.)

Archaeological Site Stewardship: Do you have archaeological sites on your property? Private landowners and local governments can protect clues to our past by being stewards of archaeological properties within their ownership. Follow the link to information about being a good steward.

What’s so bad about collecting artifacts? Learn why digging up artifacts can be harmful to Virginia’s archaeological sites and what you can do instead.

Projectile Point Types and Lithic Types: Provides information and images of 44 projectile point types applicable to Virginia, and 47 lithic types from Virginia and surrounding states. The point types may be sorted by time period and general shape. Also features a  timeline to show point relationships. The lithics may be sorted by type of stone or by general location. (Reference and publication sections are included in the module.)

Threatened Sites Program:  Learn how significant archaeological sites in Virginia that are threatened with destruction may be eligible for financial aid if no other funding is available for their investigation.

Underwater Archaeology Program: Learn more about archaeological sites that lie along the coast or are completely submerged, and how Virginia is attempting to better understand and protect shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological sites.

Collections:  DHR maintains a repository in Richmond that contains more than 5 million archaeological artifacts recovered from sites in Virginia. Follow the link to information about services DHR provides at its Curation Facility.

DHR Archaeological Report Series: See a list of archaeological reports available directly from DHR.

Radiocarbon Dates for Virginia Archaeology: See an Excel spreadsheet of Virginia C-14 dates for recovered artifacts. Go to this document for Virginia Radiocarbon Dates References Cited.

DHR-ASV-USFS Archaeological Field Schools: Each year DHR conducts archaeological fields schools in Virginia in partnership with the Archeological Society of Virginia and the US Forest Services’ Passport in Time program. If you are curious about the field schools, this video (5 mins./YouTube) highlights a portion of a field school in Northampton County’s Eastville on the Eastern Shore.

Two archaeologists sit behind excavated feature.
Archaeologists pose with their work, an excavated hut at “Camp Misery,” an immense Civil War Union Army camp in Stafford County. (Photo: Taft Kiser)

Regional Archaeology Programs:: Most of the department’s archaeological survey, field, and technical assistance activities are  conducted from our three regional offices. If you have questions pertaining to local archaeology, need help identifying or managing an archaeological site, or require educational information or speakers about area archaeology, contact the archaeologist who serves your region:

  • State Archaeologist: Elizabeth Moore (804) 482-6084
  • Eastern Region: Michael Clem (804) 482-6443
  • Western Region: Tom Klatka (540) 387-5396
  • Northern Region: Bob Jolley (540) 868-7032

See a map to identify your region by county: Map of DHR regions for staff archaeologists.

Archaeology and Environmental Review: Both state and federal laws and procedures require that significant archaeological sites be identified and considered in a variety of public projects. In fact, more archaeological survey and excavation projects are conducted in Virginia as a result of these laws than for any other purpose. As the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), DHR assists federal and state agencies in meeting their responsibility to take historic properties into account in planning and carrying out their projects. The reports resulting from these efforts to identify, evaluate, and treat historic properties are available in the DHR Archives and some may be available online under the Archives’ Special Collections or online as part of Archaeological Reports.

Archaeological Permits: Conducting archaeological survey and excavations on private property does not require permission from the Department of Historic Resources unless it involves graves or cemeteries: 

  • Any archaeological work conducted on human graves—marked or unmarked—requires a permit from DHR.
  • Any archaeological work on state-controlled lands also requires a permit from DHR.
  • Removing objects from underwater historic sites requires a permit from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Please contact State Archaeologist Elizabeth Moore for more information.
  • Any archaeological work or removal of historic artifacts from federal lands requires an Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) permit from the federal land manager for that property. For information on the ARPA, visit the  National Park Service’s website.

Registering Archaeological Sites. In order to obtain an official state site number and incorporate information into our archives and mapping systems, archaeological sites must be registered. Professional archaeologists must record archaeological sites in Virginia in DHR’s VCRIS (Virginia Cultural Resource Information System). Non-professionals wishing to record archaeological information may contact the Archaeology Inventory Manager, Jolene Smith.

Updated April 8, 2020