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NPS Archeology Guide > Archeological Permits > 3. Information for NPS Archeologists

Information for NPS Archeologists

This section describes the NPS archeologist’s responsibilities for complying with cultural resource laws and regulations when conducting archeological activities on parklands. It also includes responsibilities in assisting regional directors and park managers in reviewing applications for a Permit for Archeological Investigations (hereafter referred to as a “Permit”), monitoring field projects, and reviewing final reports and products resulting from archeological investigations.

A Permit is a legal document that defines the scope and methodology of the permitted archeological work and specifies the conditions for suspending the project. Thus, a Permit can be, and is, used in court to establish elements of cultural resource laws violations, should they occur.

The NPS archeologist is essential to the permitting process. The archeologist normally is designated by the park manager or regional director as a liaison between the applicant and the regional director who issues the Permit. The NPS archeologist may provide assistance or background information to the applicant in preparing a Permit application, advises the park manager and/or the regional director about the feasibility and appropriateness of the project, monitors the activity, and reviews reports, ASMIS records, and other documentation that is generated by the permitted investigation. Because of this important role, the NPS archeologist should be familiar with all sections of this NPS Archeology Guide Permits module.

NPS archeologists provide expert advice to the regional director and the park manager on the issuance, inspection, and review of archeological projects conducted under a Permit. NPS archeologists assist in enforcing cultural resource protection laws and regulations, including the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and ARPA regulations.

The NPS archeologist is also responsible for determining whether the proposed project will impact an archeological or historical resource that is listed or eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. If the proposed project will impact an eligible or listed site, the project must comply with NHPA Section 106 provisions, and NEPA Environmental Assessment requirements.

NPS Archeologists: Responsibilities of NPS Archeologists and Contractors Conducting Archeological Investigations

Whether located at a national park unit, a regional center that specializes in cultural resources, or at the regional office, NPS archeologists conduct field work and oversee the work of others on parklands. Although a Permit is not required for NPS-authorized fieldwork, all work performed by NPS archeologists is held to the highest federal standards (see Director’s Order #28A, Sections 6A and 6B and Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation). NPS archeologists and non-NPS archeologists working on behalf of the NPS must meet ARPA standards for undertaking archeological investigations (43 CFR 7.8 and 7.9). These standards include:

NPS Archeologists: Assisting Applicants

It is important that permit applicants contact park managers when contemplating an archeological project to be carried out on parklands. The park manager may delegate responsibilities for assisting Permit applicants to a park or other NPS archeologist. It is important that all NPS requirements are discussed with the applicant before the permit application is submitted. In order to assist the applicant in planning an archeological project, the NPS archeologist should be familiar with:

If the archeological project is anticipated to impact a site that is listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Sites or if the project involves archeological excavations, compliance with Section 106 of NHPA or NEPA is required. The regional director or the regional director’s appointed delegate will consult with the SHPO. If compliance is required, the applicant will be requested to prepare background documentation.

NPS Archeologists: Reviewing Permit Applications

NPS archeologists provide the major technical and policy review of archeological Permit applications. They advise regional directors and park managers on the merits of the proposed work and provide recommendations, with justifications, for approval or denial of applications. The Permit may be denied if the application does not meet Permit requirements. (See 43 CFR 7.8 Issuance of Permits).

The NPS archeologist verifies that:

NPS Cultural Resources Management Guideline (1997) and Director’s Order #28A, Archeology recommends that invasive fieldwork, such as excavation, be limited. However, proposals may point out specific reasons and justifications why the recovery of park archeological resources are necessary and significant to current research and management needs.

The NPS archeologists involved in Permit application review ensures that terms and conditions for an approved Permit anticipate all possible outcomes of the project including, for example, attention to final site condition, review of deliverables other than reports, and ASMIS and ICMS data entry.

NPS Archeologists: NPS Inspections

The regional director is responsible for ensuring that inspections occur during the field and laboratory phases of a permitted project to determine whether the project is in compliance with stipulations of the Permit. These inspections are conducted by NPS archeologists and, when feasible, an NPS curator. During the inspection, the NPS archeologist verifies that:

The appointed NPS archeologist or curator should also monitor project-related laboratory activities. Laboratory inspection includes verification that all of the NPS standards for collections management outlined in Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections (36 CFR Part 79) and the NPS Museum Handbook, and other NPS region-specific guidelines are met to ensure proper management and security of the collection.

Should violations of the terms of the Permit be observed, the archeologist communicates this information in writing and in a timely manner to the park manager who, in turn, provide the regional director with the information necessary to suspend the Permit and all associated activities.

NPS Archeologists: Discovery of Human Remains

If human remains are discovered, either during excavation or survey, the plan developed by the park to respond to these circumstances is followed. If no plan exists, the permittee ceases all work, secures the area, and immediately notifies the park manager of the discovery. Work stoppage is specific to the area where the human remains are encountered.

Native American Human Remains

If excavation of Native American human remains during the permitted project was anticipated, the permittee will follow the procedures in the written Plan for Intentional Excavation of Native American Human Remains provided in the Permit. Project work may continue in accordance with the written programmatic plan previously formulated by the park unit in consultation with Native American tribes and made a part of the conditions of the Permit.

If the discovery of Native American human remains during the permitted project was not anticipated, the permittee will follow procedures in the Plan for Unanticipated Discovery of Native American Human Remains provided in the Permit.

In the absence of a programmatic plan, permitted activities may be resumed 30 days after tribes have been notified (25 U.S.C. 3002(d)). During the 30 day work stoppage, permittees should coordinate their activities with NPS in order to avoid harm to Native American human remains and other cultural items that are protected under NAGPRA (25 U.S.C.3001, Definitions).

If, as part of an excavation or inadvertent discovery, Native American human remains or NAGPRA-related items are disinterred, scientific archeological methods, techniques, analyses, and reports are conducted as required by ARPA and Section 3 of NAGPRA (NPS Cultural Resource Management Guideline, Appendix R).

Non-Native American Human Remains

If the human remains are determined to be non-Native American, NAGPRA does not apply. In that case, the park manager will confer with law enforcement officials, the county or state coroner, and/or the medical examiner to determine the appropriate course of action. As the location of the human remains is a potential crime scene, the permittee ceases all work immediately upon discovery, and does not begin work again until notified by the park manager.

NPS Archeologists: Reviewing Research Reports and Products

The NPS archeologist reviews all products of the investigations, such as reports, field forms, ASMIS site records, or the field data to create ASMIS site records, for conformance with the Permit terms and conditions. The NPS archeologist reviews all ASMIS site records or the information provided for entry into ASMIS to determine that it is complete, accurate, and reliable.

The NPS archeologist provides the park manager and regional director with comments and recommendations regarding the products. Upon completion of the project and after all reports and/or products have been submitted and accepted, the regional director sends a letter to the applicant and park manager stating that the conditions of the Permit have been met.

Results of archeological investigations on parklands must be accessible to a broad range of users, including federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, the professional community, and the general public. Results must be communicated in reports that summarize the objectives, methods, techniques, and research results. Information relating to curation, such as any on-site conservation of items, ICMS catalog records, name of the curatorial repository, and collection accession numbers should also be included in the final report in order that additional detailed information can be obtained, if necessary. Information about specific site locations and other site information that would endanger the integrity of the archeological resource, if generally available, should be reported in a manner that allows the park manager to withhold that information.

Preliminary Reports

Within six weeks of completion of the field component of the research project, the permittee must submit a preliminary report to the regional director. The report should describe the fieldwork, including accomplishments, methods used to accomplish the work, names of individuals that carried out the fieldwork, maps, any GPS data, completed ASMIS forms for any newly recorded archeological sites, and any professional recommendations.

When a fieldwork episode involved only minor work and/or minor findings, a final report may be submitted in place of the preliminary report.

Annual Reports

In the event that the Permit extends for more than 1 year, the NPS requires an annual progress report by the permittee. The report must detail the extent of work accomplished to date, and how much work remains to be carried out. The Permit will be reviewed on a yearly basis following the submission of the annual report to ensure that the project is meeting deadlines and goals (43 CFR 7.9(g)).

Final Reports

Standard permit conditions require that within six months of completion of the field component of the research project, the permittee must submit a final report for review by the regional director. The applicant is advised to submit a draft report ahead of time, and allow time for revisions based on reviews by NPS personnel. If analysis is expected to take longer than six months, the regional director may authorize an extension for submission of the final report.

The final report must be consistent with information in field notes, photographs, and other materials (see the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation and 36 CFR 79 for additional guidance) and include:

If the actual research methods differed from those proposed, the reasons for these differences should be included in the report.

The final report is a public document and cannot be copyrighted. Information collected in the final report may be used by the NPS for cultural resource management purposes. Information collected during the research project, however, may be used by permittees in other publications that can be copyrighted. However, the permittee must not publish, without the prior permission of the regional director, any locational or other identifying archeological site information that could compromise the government's protection and management of archeological sites (Permit, Standard Permit Conditions 15.x).

Artifact and Document Storage

Artifacts and records from the archeological investigations on federally owned parklands are the property of the United States (43 CFR 7.8). Material remains and associated records must be delivered to the appropriate official of the institution responsible for curation no later than 90 days after the final report is submitted to the regional director (43 CFR 7.8.7).

NPS Archeologists: Archeological Resource Protection on Parklands

Disturbance of archeological sites without a Permit is illegal and will be prosecuted. NPS archeologists assist in enforcing cultural resource protection laws and regulations, in particular the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and ARPA regulations, through monitoring permittees’ research activities and monitoring archeological resources within parks. NPS archeologists must immediately report any cultural resource law violations to the park manager. Other laws that protect park archeological resources include the National Park System Resource Protection Act.

Looted or disturbed archeological sites are crime scenes, and must be investigated by law enforcement personnel. Prior to the arrival of a law enforcement officer, the NPS archeologist assists by recording information about the looting, photographing damage, and obtaining accurate locational information. Once the scene has been secured by a law enforcement officer, the NPS archeologist assists in documentation of damage. Volumetric measures, profiles, and plan views of looters’ pits become part of the damage assessment report. Backfill is screened for further evidence. Archeologists who assist in this work should meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeologists, and have completed ARPA law enforcement training for archeologists, particularly training in conducting archeological damage assessments.

The NPS archeologist may also prepare the damage assessment report. The damage report includes justification for assigned commercial value (if objects or collections are recovered), site restoration and repair costs, and archeological values. Current sources for determining commercial value include North American Indian Artifacts: A Collector’s Identification and Value Guide, by Lar Hotham, and Overstreet Indian Arrowheads: Identification and Price Guide, by Robert M. Overstreet. Evaluation of the commercial value of Euroamerican objects may be gained through use of e-Bay. Professional Standards for determining archeological value are available.

The damage assessment report provides the prosecutor with the information to argue the case, and is critical to a successful prosecution. Archeologists work closely with NPS law enforcement personnel to determine the cost of penalties associated with criminal offenses and civil penalties under ARPA. The penalties section of ARPA is at 16 U.S.C. 470ee(d), and 470ff.

Archeologists play a pivotal role in the documentation of looted and disturbed sites and in the successful prosecution of archeological resource laws violations. Archeologists also work pro-actively with regional and local law enforcement personnel to protect archeological resources. Archeologists and law enforcement personnel share information about the location of important sites to promote site monitoring. Archeologists educate park law enforcement officers about the importance of protecting and preserving archeological resources and encourage park law enforcement officers to attend training in cultural resource laws and law enforcement.

Archeologists also work closely with park interpretive staff to provide visitors with information about cultural resource laws and the actions that constitute violations of cultural resource laws. Archeologists work with interpretive staff to educate visitors about the importance of protecting our national heritage. Resources for development of interpretive materials for protection of archeological resources are available on the NPS Archeology Program Distance Learning web page.