Colorado Human Remains Discovery (11-CO-c)
In 1973, the Colorado Congress passed the Historical, Prehistorical, and Archaeological Resources Act and, thereby, created the office of the state archaeologist in the State Historical Society of Colorado (Society) to coordinate, encourage and preserve the full understanding of Colorado’s archaeological and paleontological resources for the benefit of Colorado’s citizens. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-405; Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7 Rules and Procedures.
Human Remains Discovery Process
11-CO-c.1 and 11-CO-c.2 - Notify County Coroner
According to Colo. Rev. Stat § 24-80-1302, any person who discovers on any land suspected human skeletal remains or who knowingly disturbs such remains must immediately notify the coroner of the county wherein the remains are located and the sheriff, police chief, or land managing agency official.
11-CO-c.3 - Conduct On-Site Inquiry
The coroner will conduct an on-site inquiry within48 hours of such notification to attempt to determine whether such skeletal remains are human remains and to determine their forensic value. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(2)).
Whenever possible, on-site inquiries under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(2) should proceed in a manner which does not remove the human skeletal remains from the ground. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7)
11-CO-c.4 and 11-CO-c.5 - Is the Coroner Able to Make a Determination?
If the coroner is unable to make such determinations, the police chief, the sheriff, the coroner, or the land managing agency official will request the forensic anthropologist of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to assist in making such determinations. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(2)).
According to the Office of the State Archaeologist, the coroner may also seek the assistance of the State Archaeologist.
11-CO-c.6 - Are the Remains of Forensic Value?
The coroner must determine if the remains may be of forensic value to law enforcement. If the remains are of no forensic value, responsibility for the remains will fall back to the state archaeologist.
11-CO-c.7 - Proceed with Investigation
The state archaeologist will only step in if the remains are determined to be of no value to law enforcement.
11-CO-c.8 - Continue with Project
The project may continue after any investigation involving the area where the remains were found is complete.
11-CO-c.9 - Notify State Archaeologist
If it is confirmed that the remains are human remains but of no forensic value, the coroner will notify the state archaeologist of the discovery. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(2)).
According to the Office of the State Archaeologist, the State Archaeologist will take over the jurisdiction of the site if the remains are likely Native American, but only occasionally when the remains are only likely historic (historic with significant archaeological data recovery potential).
11-CO-c.10 - Dispatch Archaeologist to Make Initial Assessment and Recommendation for Site Treatment
Before the site is further disturbed, the state archaeologist will have the human remains examined by a qualified archaeologist to determine whether the remains are more than one hundred years old and to evaluate the integrity of their archaeological context. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(3)).
The state archaeologist will also recommend security measures for the site. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(2)).
11-CO-c.11 - Documentation of Archaeological Context
The documentation of the archaeological context of the human remains must be accomplished in a timely manner. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(3)).
11-CO-c.12 - Are the Remains Native American?
If the on-site inquiry discloses that the human remains are native American, the state archaeologist will notify the Commission of Indian Affairs. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(4)).
11-CO-c.13 - Deliver Remains to County Coroner
Those remains which are verifiably nonnative American and are otherwise unclaimed will be delivered to the county coroner for further conveyance to the Colorado state anatomical board. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(5)).
According to the State Archaeologist, if the burial site is deemed historic, the jurisdiction over the site is returned to the county coroner, as most historic burials in Colorado are treated as private cemeteries, and the exhumation and moving of cemetery burials is covered by local ordinance.
11-CO-c.14 - Continue with Project
The project may continue after the remains have been removed and delivered to the coroner.
11-CO-c.15 - Notify Indian Affairs Commission
The state archaeologist will notify the Commission of Indian Affairs. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(4)).
11-CO-c.16 - Agreement to Leave Remains in Situ?
The remains must be disinterred unless the landowner, the State Archaeologist, and the chairman of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs or his designee unanimously agree to leave the remains in situ. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(4)). According to the State Archaeologist, this decision also includes input from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
Upon notification that human remains are Native American, the state archaeologist or his/her designee should determine the wishes of the landowner and the Commission, and document this consultation with an official form to be signed by the concerned parties. The landowner's desires regarding his ability to protect the remains in situ, arrangements for exhumation when appropriate, and ultimate disposition mustbe documented. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7, Rules and Procedures, Sec. 13).
According to the State Archaeologist, the preference for site treatment if the remains are identified as likely Native American is as follows:
- leave the remains in place if they are not threatened;
- Immediate nearby reburial on the same property if they are not threatened; and
- Excavation and repatriation if they are threatened.
11-CO-c.17 - Leave Remains in Situ
11-CO-c.18 - Cover Over the Remains
In the event the remains are left in situ, they must be covered over. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(4)).
11-CO-c.19 - Continue with Project in Accordance with Commission
Upon notification that human remains are Native American, the state archaeologist or his/her designee should determine the wishes of the landowner and the Commission, and document this consultation with an official form to be signed by the concerned parties. The landowner's desires regarding his ability to protect the remains in situ, arrangements for exhumation when appropriate, and ultimate disposition must be documented. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 13).
11-CO-c.20 - Application for Excavation Permit
Disinterment of human remains from such graves will require an excavation permit. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 13).
"Excavation" permits authorize subsurface investigations of a specified historical, archaeological or paleontological resource(s), or an unmarked human burial, in accordance with a research design or statement of objectives that has been approved for the specific resource(s) described in the application, and may be issued for a period not to exceed 14 months. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 4).
11-CO-c.21 - Review Application
The Historical Society through the state archaeologist will review complete applications within 10 working days of receipt and immediately notify the applicant of the results of the review by mail. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 6).
11-CO-c.22 - Permit Approved?
Applications must be complete. The applicant is responsible for the completeness and quality of information submitted.
The society through the state archaeologist may deny a permit to an applicant:
- a) If he/she does not meet the qualifications outlined above;
- b) If he/she gives false information on the application;
- c) If he/she gives fails to adhere to any of the terms and conditions of prior permits;
- d) If he/she has previously been denied a federal permit for work on the same project;
- e) If he/she has been convicted of a violation of the Act;
- f) If he/she has a record of violating any law applicable to archaeological or paleontological resources protection. Violation of said law shall include civil sanctions as well as criminal conviction (which shall include a plea of nolo contendere or acceptance of a deferred sentence);
- g) If he/she has a record of unacceptable reports;
- h) If he/she submits a research design or documentation plan that does not meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archaeology and Historic Preservation (Federal Register 48(190), September 29, 1983);
- i) If he/she has not arranged for funding sufficient to complete the proposed work;
- j) If the landowner or land manager objects; or
- k) For other just cause.
11-CO-c.23 - Written Explanation
The society through the state archaeologist will provide an applicant who is denied a permit a written explanation of the reasons for the denial. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 6).
11-CO-c.24 - Request Hearing (Discretionary)
The applicant, within 60 days, may request a hearing before the president of the society or an administrative law judge pursuant to CRS 24-4-105. The society will notify the applicant of the time and place of the hearing at least 20 days prior to said hearing. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 6).
11-CO-c.25 - Excavation Permit
11-CO-c.26 - Disinter Remains
The remains must be disinterred unless the landowner, the state archaeologist, and the chairman of the commission or his designee unanimously agree to leave the remains in situ.
Disinterment must be conducted carefully, respectfully, and in accordance with proper archaeological methods and by an archaeologist who holds a permit issued under C.R.S. 24-80-405 and Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-406. In the event the remains are left in situ, they must be covered over.
Without the landowner's express consent for an extension of time, disinterment must be accomplished no later than ten consecutive days after the state archaeologist has received notification from the coroner.
11-CO-c.27 - Assume Temporary Custody, Study Remains
The archaeologist who conducts the disinterment will assume temporary custody of the human remains, for a period not to exceed one year from the date of disinterment, for the purpose of study and analysis.
In the event that a period in excess of one year is required to complete such study and analysis, the Commission of Indian Affairs will hold a hearing and may, based upon its findings, grant an extension.
11-CO-c.28 - Archaeological Analysis and Report
During the period that the human remains are in the temporary custody of the archaeologist who conducted the disinterment, the archaeologist will prepare an archaeological analysis and report. At the same time, a physical anthropological study will be conducted to include, but not be limited to, osteometric measurement, pathological analysis, and age, sex, and cause of death determinations. (Colo. Rev. Stat. 24-80-1302(4)).
The physical anthropological study of human remains must be conducted by a qualified physical anthropologist with credentials comparable to those required for principal investigators. C.R.S. 24-80-1303 allows an anthropologist to expedite his/her work by arranging for the necessary permit in advance. (Colo. Code Regs. tit. 8 § 1504-7- 13).
The cost of the disinterment, archaeological analysis, and physical anthropological study will be borne by the state archaeologist except when the human remains are recovered from private lands. In the latter case, if no party can be identified who will bear the cost of such scientific study, the state archaeologist will bear such costs. (Colo. Rev. Stat. 24-80-1302(4)).
11-CO-c.29 - Consult with Indian Affairs Commission Regarding Reinterment
Upon completion of the studies, the state archaeologist will consult with the Commission regarding reinterment. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-80-1302(4)).
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