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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Archaeological Sites

A number of federal and state laws protect Oregon’s archaeological sites and cultural resources. Artifacts only need to be 75 years old  to be considered an archaeological object in the State of Oregon (ORS 358.905- 358.955). Archaeological objects can include prehistoric items such as arrowheads, spear points, charcoal and human and non-human bones, but can also include historical arrowheadobjects such as brick, glass and miscellaneous metal. Even objects that appear to be trash can constitute a significant archaeological site if they meet certain criteria. 

Pre-Construction Confirmation Testing in Columbia South Shore
Archaeological Resources Protection Plan for Columbia South Shore (aka, archaeological plan): The archaeological plan, adopted by City Council in 1996, consists of sample testing and protection of identified archaeological resources Archaeological Resource Protection requirements for land use planning are outlined in the Portland Zoning Code under 33.515.262. Maps 515-517 show areas of archaeological interest and areas where confirmation testing may be required before project construction. The boundaries of this area are generally between the Willamette River and NE 185th Ave. and north of NE Sandy and Columbia Blvd. to the Columbia River. See the Zoning Code chapter 33.515 for zoning information and maps. 

Discovery During Course of Construction
Regardless of location, if you encounter artifacts during the course of construction, please do the following:

Non-Government Applicants

  • If you encounter possible human remains you must contact 911. If you find artifacts that appear to be at least 75 years old, you should avoid the area of discovery and contact a professional archaeologist as soon as possible.
  • Visit or call 503-986-0671 for more details, or assistance with finding qualified archaeologists.
City Bureaus
  • City of Portland bureaus are instructed to observe state and federal discovery rules during project construction. The rules appear in sections 00290.50 and 00290.51 of the Standard Construction Specifications manual.

  • Non-disclosure: The City of Portland adopted a policy to limit disclosure of archaeological site records. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is the official repository of archaeological site records. SHPO archaeologists provide education on cultural heritage issues, explain current state laws and regulations and help resolve potential conflicts involving development, scientific research, and the respectful treatment of archaeological resources. Visit or call 503-986-0690 for more details or assistance.
  • Federal funds and federal projects: Qualified archaeologists are hired by City infrastructure bureaus to assess the presence of archaeological sites in situations where federal funds are used to build projects and/or work on federal projects in the larger Columbia Corridor area.