What is an historical archaeological site?

All historical archaeological sites in Victoria are protected by law. This means you need approval from Heritage Victoria to disturb them. The Victorian Heritage Inventory is a list of known historical archaeological sites in the State.

An archaeological site is a place which:

  • Contains buried evidence like an artefact, deposit or feature which is 75 years old or more.
  • Provides information about past activity.
  • Needs archaeological methods to reveal information about the place.
  • Isn't associated only with Aboriginal use.

Aboriginal archaeological sites are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which is regulated by First Peoples - State Relations.

These diverse, historic sites relate to:

  • the earliest non-Aboriginal visitation and settlement in Victoria
  • contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people
  • coastal sites, where sealing and whaling were once carried out
  • the establishment and growth of towns and settlements
  • mining areas in the gold rush years
  • industry, like saw mills, potteries and breweries
  • former institutional sites like orphanages, prisons, asylums and industrial schools
  • former commercial sites like pubs, general stores, dentists, haberdasheries and furniture stores
  • former residential sites like houses, homesteads, cottages, and outbuildings

Historical archaeological sites might include features like:

  • building foundations or post holes
  • buried items like old bottles, ceramics, clay pipes, toys
  • kitchen scraps like bones or shells

What is the Victorian Heritage Inventory?

The Victorian Heritage Inventory is a list of about 6,500 known historical archaeological sites. Some sites can be included on both the register and the inventory. Enter an address to see if a property or place is on the list.

Note that we still protect sites that aren't on the inventory. You need to apply for our approval to disturb any archaeological site, including for geotechnical testing, mining and prospecting.

Many archaeological sites have not yet been discovered or recorded. You need to apply for our approval to disturb any archaeological site, including for geotechnical testing, non-destructive digging, and mining purposes. Penalties apply for disturbing archaeological sites without prior approval.

If you think you’ve found an archaeological site, please contact us.

Access to collections

Heritage Victoria manages a large collection of archaeological artefacts from land and maritime excavations. This is a unique and significant collection, available for research, by appointment.

Page last updated: 17/03/23