In general terms, my understanding of Georgia’s laws regarding the collection of artifacts in and along Georgia’s waterways is as follows.

All rivers, lakes and major streams and banks are protected by State and Federal laws, including adjacent swamps, marshes etc….the wording used is all “navigable” waterways. That leaves some room for some interpretation. You could debate floating a canoe as navigable, but I read it to mean a boat with a motor as navigable. If you own both sides of a creek do you also own the bottom? I would assume so, but I am not an attorney.

You cannot pick up ANYTHING in a State or Federal park, not a flower, leaf or any other object.

You cannot disturb burials anywhere, mounds or any other prehistoric structures.

The safest place to hunt artifacts is on private property with written permission on your person as you hunt. Be smart, when in doubt, live without.



Archaeology and Georgia’s laws

The following statements were published by the Georgia Society for Archaeology as a summary of Georgia laws regarding the collecting and display of artifacts.

Without the proper permits and permissions, in Georgia it is illegal to:

  • Collect artifacts on public land.
  • Dig or disturb an archaeological site on public land or in Georgia’s waterways.
  • Disturb a human burial on either public or private land.
  • Display any human remains in public.
  • Sell artifacts that were ever associated with a human burial, or to bring such artifacts from another state in the U.S.
  • Import artifacts taken illegally in a foreign country.
  • Remove artifacts or disturb a site on private property without permission of the land owner.
  • Receive stolen artifacts.

It is generally legal to:

  • Own a collection of artifacts.
  • Surface collect on private land with the written permission of the property owner.

In Georgia, on private land, it is legal to dig or metal detect for artifacts ONLY IF you have written permission from the landowner, AND IF you have notified the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in writing five (5) business days before you begin. This refers to all ground-disturbing activities, including on Civil War sites.



Enjoy collecting, but avoid private property where you have not been given written permission and avoid public property completely!!!