Storage of oversize groundstone
materials. From the photograph collection of the Army Corps
of Engineers, St. Louis District.
A detailed collecting strategy is another essential element of a project
design. It can affect a resulting collection's short-term care and preservation
in the field and its long-term management and care in a repository, both
the material remains and the associated records. The collecting strategy
is different for every project, but should be based on the theoretical
or compliance focus of the project and the phase of work to be completed
(i.e., background research, survey, testing, excavation). Examination
of existing collections from projects in the general area can be very
helpful in understanding the range of material remains that might be found,
as well as effective documentation. For compliance or contract work on
federal, tribal, state, or local land, it should take into account any
field collecting policies or guidelines for the planned phase of work
(see Section III.) For either compliance or research, the collecting strategy
should consider the long-term interests and concerns of culturally-affiliated
groups and work to get them involved from the beginning of the project.
Finally and if available, the collecting strategy should also consider
the long-term research plan for the state or region in which the project
A well-planned collecting
strategy makes the principal investigator's job in the field easier
and ensures the physical, research, interpretive, and heritage values
of the collected materials. Knowing the value of the collection is very
important when justifying the costs of its long-term care.
strategy should include the following:
of Objects: Identification of the classes
of material culture expected to be recovered (i.e., ceramics, lithic,
wood, etc.) and the classes of non-cultural materials (i.e., soil
and radiocarbon samples) expected to be collected. The collecting
strategy should also consider the expected range
of variation for all classes of objects and specimens.
- Types of Associated
Records for the Project: Identification of the types of associated
records expected to be created during the project. It is increasingly
important to consider if and how digital and other magnetic data will
be created and collected, especially given the costs of reformatting
and migrating digital data over time. Types of associated records
information, e.g., field notes, photographs, sound and video recordings,
records, e.g., quantitative and qualitative data compiled during
documentation, e.g., research design, proposals, contract, work
- project results,
e.g., published books and articles, formal presentations, final
reports (often gray literature
that is produced in limited numbers);
papers, e.g., correspondence, diaries, email, report drafts, etc.
Periods or Occupation Levels: Identification of the principal
time period(s) or occupation levels that are the focus of the project.
Documentation also should be included on any object classes from other
time periods that may be disturbed or recovered in the process of
getting to the focal time period(s) and how these materials will be
Procedure: Many archeological projects yield highly redundant
materials, material remains that do not fit the project design, excessive
numbers of non-cultural materials, and/or duplicative records. Given
the costs of collection management, the current crunch on storage
space, professional ethics concerning their recovery, and long-term
care of and access to collections, an appropriate sampling
strategy for the recovered object class(es) is important. Full consideration
must be given to the research potential and the requirements of potential
analytical techniques when developing the sampling parameters for
an object class (see Section VI for more discussion on sampling).
The potentials for research and legal and administrative record-keeping
must be considered before any sampling is performed on associated
records. All decisions and actions must be well documented.
Provision: There is always an unexpected element to archeological
fieldwork, and all of the objects recovered and associated records
created have value. These are reasons why a provision for modification
is important in a project research design, collecting strategy, and
curation agreement. The right to modify is especially important when
working on federal lands. ARPA allows for the deaccessioning or discarding
of "inadvertently discovered materials". If the possibility of unexpected
finds is not acknowledged and dealt with in the project design, they
can be removed from the collection after due process.
When NAGPRA-related items are likely to be discovered during fieldwork
it is important (and required by the Act) to place provisions in the
collecting strategy for these objects. These provisions should be
prepared in consultation with the appropriate Indian tribe(s) or Native
Hawaiian organization(s). Collecting strategies for human remains
and NAGPRA-related objects should address whether they will be collected
or left in situ, what research or analysis procedures may be
undertaken on them, and what provisions are in place for the final
disposition of the objects or remains (e.g., transferal to a repository
or tribe for repatriation,
reburial, etc.). Pre-fieldwork provisioning for NAGPRA can help avoid
contentious issues regarding ownership and scientific use. It also
can help to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between Native
Americans, agencies, archeologists, and repositories.
Note: NAGPRA relates to objects and their associated records,
not to records with no associated objects.