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New Mexico Human Burial Discovery (11-NM-c)

Where unmarked human burials or burial grounds are discovered on New Mexico state lands at any time during the project, developers must comply with strict notice and action requirements. Upon notifying local law enforcement, a Medical Investigator determines if the burial has medicolegal significance. Absent medicolegal significance, the developer must employ a qualifying archaeologist who then applies for a Permit to Excavate Human Burials. As part of the application, applicants must determine if the burials are Native American or Non-Native American and comply with differing notice requirements based on that determination. NMAC 4.10.11.

Human Burial Discovery Process

11-NM-c.1 to 11-NM-c.2 – Cease Activity and Notify Local Law Enforcement

A developer who discovers an unmarked human burial or unmarked burial ground must cease any activity that may disturb that burial or burial ground or any object or artifact associated with that burial or burial ground and notify the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction in the area. The local law enforcement agency will then notify the Medical lnvestigator (MI) and the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division (NMHPD). NMAC

11-NM-c.3 to 11-NM-c.4 – Does the Burial Have Medicolegal Significance?

The MI and a NMHPD representative will make a joint determination as to whether or not the burial or burial grounds have medicolegal significance. If the burials have medicolegal significance, the MI retains sole jurisdiction over the burials and begins a medical investigation. Development may not continue during the course of the medical investigation. NMAC

11-NM-c.5 – Retain Archaeologist with Burial Permit

If the MI and NMHPD representative determine that the burial or burial grounds do not have medicolegal significance, the developer must retain an archaeologist or anthropologist with a burial permit. The NMHPD provides a directory of qualified supervisory personnel on their website. Note that the chosen archaeologist must be specifically qualified to conduct burial excavations. NMAC

11-NM-c.6 to 11-NM-c.8 – Can the Burial be Avoided and Protected if Left in Place?

The NMHPD will determine whether the burials can be avoided by and protected from the project if left in place. If the NMHPD determines that the burials can be avoided and protected, the developer may continue with the project. Otherwise, the archaeologist will have to excavate the burials.

11-NM-c.9 – Burial Report

Within 45 days of completion of excavation the archaeologist will submit a recommended plan for the disposition of human remains (if not already specified in the permit application and execution process) and, once approved by the NMHPD, implement the plan within 30 days. Within 12 months of fieldwork, archaeologists are required to submit a final burial report on the excavations of a human burial conducted under the permit to the NMHPD. NMAC and NMAC

11-NM-c.10 to 11-NM-c.11 – Are the Burials Native American?

The required methods for identifying and notifying living persons who may be related to the human burial depend on whether the evidence suggests a burial is of Native American origin as opposed to non-Native American origin. If Non-Native American, the archaeologist will attempt to locate and notify any persons who may be related to the human burial in writing or through legal notice. Persons contacted who may be related to the human burial have 30 days to make recommendations to the archaeologist regarding the disposition of the human remains. NMAC

11-NM-c.12 to 11-NM-c.13 – Notify NMIAD, Tribes and Pueblos

If the evidence suggests the burial is of Native American origin, the NMHPD will notify the New Mexico Indian Affairs Division (NMIAD), Tribes and Pueblos and transmit information about the human burial. The NMIAD will attempt to identify living persons who may be related to the human burial and either the NMIAD or a spokesperson for a Tribe or Pueblo claiming a relationship to the human burial may make a recommendation for disposition of the human remains. Thirty days after notice to NMIAD, NMHPD will notify the archaeologist of any recommendations for the Disposition Plan based on any comments received. NMAC

11-NM-c.14 to 11-NM-c.15 – Disposition Plan

After the requisite notice process described in 11-NM-11 through 11-NM-13, the archaeologists prepares and submits a Disposition Plan to the NMHPD. The NMHPD will review the plan, potentially comment and/or modify, and subsequently approve the plan. The archaeologist is responsible for carrying out the approved Disposition Plan.

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Contact Information

Edit New Mexico Historic Preservation Division
Archaeologist, Cultural Issues Contact 505.827.4064 michelleabbazabbaensey@stateabbazabbanmabbazabbaus Visit Website