A permit from the Director of DHR is required for archaeological recovery of all human skeletal remains and associated artifacts from any unmarked grave, regardless of the age of the burial or archaeological site or ownership of the property.
If the grave is part of a formally chartered cemetery, the recovery must also conform to the requirements of § 57-38.1 (“Proceedings by landowner for removal of remains from abandoned family graveyards”) and § 57-39 (“Proceedings for removal of remains and sale of land vacated.”).
DHR’s application for a permit to allow the archaeological excavation of human remains was revised (January 9, 2015) to reflect changes to burial laws. The new permit application form is available for use and can be downloaded as a PDF. If you would prefer a Word document, please contact Joanna Wilson Green at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.
In response to recent changes to VA Code §57-36 and 57-38.1, all applicants must notify the public of their intent to relocate buried human remains by publishing a notice of intent in a newspaper of local circulation (in both print and online versions, if available) at least once per week for no fewer than four consecutive weeks. The notice must be placed in other locations accessible by the general public as well (county offices, local libraries, community centers. etc.). The applicant must also post a notice on a public right-of-way at or near the cemetery in question, and must notify any local historical or genealogical organizations directly. Copies of these notices, as well as proof of publication, must be submitted with the application.
If the application is submitted by or on behalf of a county, city, or town, that entity must cause at least one open meeting to be held in order to allow members of the public an opportunity to discuss the proposed relocation. Applicants may request a waiver of the public notice requirement if such notification may result in endangerment of the cemetery or of individual burials, and should be prepared to justify any such request. Please contact Joanna Wilson Green with any questions.