Protecting Archeological Resources

Archaeological resources provide us with evidence needed to solve cultural and scientific questions about past human populations in the New World and evidence about seasonal climate changes that occurred in the distant past, and may be important for understanding cycles that affect us today.  These resources may be located anywhere in Monterey County.

Examples of archaeological resources are:

  • village midden (cultural debris in soil)
  • human burials
  • rock art (pictographs)
  • bedrock mortars
  • rock shelters
  • trails
  • quarries
  • artifacts (arrowheads, stone tools)

Resources were usually located near food resources and a permanent source of water.  Along the coast they may contain large amounts of shell fragments in dark soil.  Stone quarries, rock shelters and trails are less obvious.  Professional training and experience are required to determine their presence and evaluate their significance.


How will archaeological resources affect my project?
Standards for development in Archaeological resource areas can be found in Chapter 21.66.050 of Title 21 (Zoning Ordinance for Inland Areas) and in the Coastal Implementation Plans for property within the Coastal Zone.

  • Check with a planner to determine if your proposed project requires an archaeological review/report.  Waivers of reports may be granted if a report is already on file, if the area will not be developed, and in some other cases.

  • If a report is required to determine if your property contains archaeological resources, obtain the services of an archaeological consultant.  A list of County approved consultants is available at the Permit Assistance Center.

  • Ask the consultant for a bid for a preliminary field survey report to determine the presence or absence of resources.  The cost will depend on the area to be checked.    Three copies of the survey report will be submitted with your planning permit application.

  • The planner will use the report for environmental review and to determine appropriate conditions, if necessary, to mitigate potential impacts of your project.  The conditions are to avoid adverse impact to the resources.  Failure to comply with conditions could halt or invalidate your project.

  • Archaeological resources are a significant liability for developers only if their presence is unknown or is ignored.

  • Some project costs have been increased due to mitigation and projects have been redesigned to avoid critical resources.

  • Planning to avoid known resources is always the best and least expensive course of action.

  • During construction unforeseen resources may be discovered.  If burials are discovered, contact the Monterey County Coroner.  If artifacts are uncovered contact your archaeological consultant.  In any case stop work within 50 feet of the discovery and contact your planner.  The planner and archaeologist will work with you to quickly assess the significance of the find and minimize delays to your project.

Archaeological sites and resources are protected by Federal and State statutes.  County policies in the General Plan and regulations in the Coastal Implementation Plans also require protection, preservation, or recovery of data from these resources.

Some Federal statutes that apply:
Antiquities Act of 1906 [16 U.S.C. § 431-33 (1982)]
Historic Sites Act of 1935 [16 U.S.C. § 461-67 (1982)]
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 [16 U.S.C. § 470-470w-6 (1982)]
Exec. Order No. 11593 - Protection and enhancement of the Cultural Environment [3CFR 154 (1971) reprinted in 16 U.S.C. §  470, note (1982)]

Some State statues that apply:
Penal Code § 622.5 (Willful damage to archaeological sites is a misdemeanor)
Health and Safety Code § 7051 (Up to 5 years imprisonment for excavating and removing human remains)
Health and Safety Code § 7052 (Removal of human remains without authority of law is a felony).
Public Resources Code § 5097.5 (Unauthorized removal or disturbance of archaeological, historical or paleontological remains from public lands is a misdemeanor).
Appendix K of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Guidelines requires archaeological resources to be evaluated.
Public Resources Code Chapter 175 § 5097.99.  It is a felony to obtain, sell, or possess Native American artifacts or human remains except under specific conditions.

County policies:
Title 21-Section 21.66.050 (Inland Zoning Ordinance)
See all policies numbered 12.1.1 et seq. in the General Plan and the Area Plans.
See the following Coastal Implementation Plan sections:

North County:  20.144.110A
Del Monte Forest:  20.147.080
Carmel:  20.146.090
Big Sur:  20.145.120