People have been living in the Chicago region continuously for over 12,000 years. The entire history of human life in Cook County is found in the archaeological sites preserved within the Forest Preserves. By leaving artifacts in place, you help preserve critical information and allow archaeologists to study these important objects and sites.
On this page:
- Archaeological Sites & Artifacts
- What to Do If You Find an Artifact
- Learn More About Local Archaeology
Archaeological Sites & Artifacts
What Is an Archaeological Artifact?
Artifacts are the things that past peoples made, changed, and left behind in places where they lived and worked. Commonly found artifacts include arrowheads, ceramics and historic bottles. Archaeology is the scientific study of past human cultures. Professional archaeologists carefully document artifacts from archaeological sites in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. These sites date from 12,000 years ago to the mid-twentieth century.
Archaeological Sites are Non-Renewable Resources
Artifacts are not souvenirs and taking them from public lands is illegal. By leaving artifacts in place, you help preserve important information and allow archaeologists to study these important objects and sites. The Forest Preserves needs your help to protect archaeological resources for everyone to appreciate.
Taking Artifacts From Public Lands Is Illegal
The Illinois Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act protects archaeological sites and artifacts on public lands. You may not dig, collect artifacts, use metal detectors, or deface architectural remains in the Forest Preserves. Violations may result in jail time or fines, as well as confiscation of equipment.
What to Do If You Find an Artifact
Leave It Be and Document the Location
Leave the artifact where you found it. Note where you are (on a map if possible) and take a photo of the artifact where you found it. Please don’t post photos or location information on social media.
Alert Forest Preserves Staff
Contact the Forest Preserves Department of Resource Management at 708-771-1180, 708-771-1335 or through our Contact Page. You can also contact archaeologists at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at 224-281-4730 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are near a Forest Preserves nature center, you can report your find to a staff member.
If You See Something Wrong
Please call Forest Preserves police at 708-771-1000 immediately if you observe someone removing artifacts, damaging sites, or using metal detecting equipment on Forest Preserves land.
Learn More About Local Archaeology
Read our Natural & Cultural Resources Master Plan for more information on how the Forest Preserves and the Illinois State Archaeological Survey are working together to protect the cultural treasures preserved within the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Learn more about the archaeology of Cook County and Illinois by visiting: