Who We Are
The National Park Service Archeology Program provides national leadership, coordination, and technical guidance on the preservation and protection of the nation’s archeological heritage. Archeology on NPS lands is guided by Federal laws, Department of the Interior policies, Executive Orders, Director’s Orders, and the NPS mission. These laws and policies enable the NPS to carry out its stewardship of archeological resources associated with Native peoples and ensure that activities or interpretations are carried out with sensitivity and care.
NPS archeology is guided by two primary policies:
- Director’s Order 28A: Archeology provides a framework for planning, reviewing, and undertaking archeological and other activities that may affect archeological resources within the National Park System
- Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines on Archeological Documentation outlines a standard set of approaches for conducting archeology on lands managed by the Department of the Interior
Archeology takes place at the national, regional and park level:
- Washington Office
- Regional Offices and Centers: Midwest Archeological Center, Southeast Archeology Center, Submerged Resources Center, Alaska Region, and the National Capital Region
- Parks (a few examples): Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Russell Cave National Monument, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
What We Do
Archeology is the study of past peoples through their material remains. It incorporates scientific investigation through excavation and collections analysis, as well as traditional knowledge passed from generation to generation. Knowing the location, significance, and condition of archeological resources helps the NPS to consult and collaborate with tribes, interpret the past to visitors, and protect sites for current and future generations.
The NPS is required by law to consult with Native Americans on any undertakings that may affect archeological sites and collections associated with their cultural history. In particular, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and 36 CFR 800, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) regulations implementing Section 106, specify that an agency's preservation-related activities be carried out in consultation with other Federal, State, and local agencies, Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations and the private sector. In addition to having a formal role under the NHPA, State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) and Tribal Preservation Officers (THPOs) can assist in identifying other interested parties, as well as sources of information. Although NHPA drives most of the consultation between the NPS and tribes, other federal laws requiring consultation ahead of archeological work include the National Environmental Protection Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Archeological research includes surveys of park lands for sites, excavations ahead of construction or development, cultural studies, and collections-based projects. Tribes have been instrumental in providing oral history and traditional knowledge that contribute to archeological research, particularly for understanding multiple perspectives on historical events. Examples include:
- Voyageurs People of the Thick Fir Woods
- Buffalo Soldiers and Apache
- Musical Instruments from Ancestral Puebloan Sites
- Sand Creek Massacre
- Brooks River Cutbank
- Pacific West High Elevation Survey at Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park
- Tlingit Fort, a Grief Ceremony, and the Sitka National Historical Park Survey
- Ancient Deep Deposits at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
Protecting Archeological Sites
The NPS works to ensure that all archeological sites are protected. However, when needed, NPS utilizes the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) to conduct criminal investigations and prosecute criminal behavior. Examples include:
Technical information and training regarding ARPA is available to assist archeologists and law enforcement.
- Archeological Resource Damage Assessment
- The Civil Prosecution Process of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act
- Archeological Resources Protection Training
The NPS Archeology Program makes archeological information available in a variety of ways. Increasingly, the NPS uses technology to organize and synthesize information, but also to make it available through the web. For assistance, please use the contact information at the bottom of the page.
The NPS uses databases to organize information about archeological resources for a range of purposes. Among them are:
- The National Archeological Database has three primary components. NADB-Reports is a bibliographic inventory of archeological “gray literature,” meaning reports and papers on archeological investigations throughout the United States. NADB-Permits contains historical information on permits for archeological investigations on federal lands. NADB-Maps includes GIS data layers from a range of sources.
- The Archeological Sites Management Information System is only accessible by NPS staff for security purposes. ASMIS is the central database that tracks locations and conditions for archeological sites across the parks.
- The Chaco Digital Archive is an online archive of information and images about Chaco Culture and its archeology.
- The LOOT Clearinghouse is a database that records ARPA violations, including those affecting Native American sites.
The primary way that the NPS communicates with the public about archeology is through the web and social media. Visit the websites for news, publications, and training opportunities, among them:
- Reports about the Kennewick Man case
- Online courses in managing archeological collections and interpreting archeology
- Twitter at www.twitter.com/npsarcheology
Contact Us: Stanley C. Bond, NPS Chief Archeologist, (202) 354-2123 Stanley_c_bond@nps.gov