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National Register of Historic Places Program: Archeology Month

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Highlighting Archeological Properties

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The following properties represent some different types of archeological listings in the National Register. Read the brief description of each to understand why it's worthy of preservation and listing, and how it exemplifies the many important contributions of archeology to our collective past.


Highlighted archeological properties for 2011

Pottersville, South Carolina
Notes from the Field: Asian inspired kilns in South Carolina?

Archeological Resources of the 18th-Century Smyrnea Settlement of Dr. Andrew Turnbull MPS, Florida
A Plantation Settlement of Diversityin British East Florida

Sams Tabby Complex (38BU581), Beaufort County, South Carolina
Over 100 Years of Plantation History Preserved at Sams Tabby Complex

Paulino Outdoor Oven, Guam
Spanish and Chamorro Culinary Collide in Guam

Highlighted archeological properties for 2010

Archeological Resources of Initial Variant of the Middle Missouri Tradition in Iowa Multiple Property Submission (MPS)
presents a fascinating study of the culture and history of the American Indians who dwelt in northwest Iowa from A.D. 1100-1250.

Kimball Village, Iowa
In 1936, Iowa archeologist D. Charles R. Keyes first heard that artifact hunters were finding materials at a site that later became known as Kimball Village.

Archeological Resources of the Central Plains Tradition in the Loess Hills Region of Iowa, Multiple Property Submission (MPS)
The archeology of the Loess Hills Region of Iowa reveals rich material culture and an impressive number of earthlodge sites left by the American Indians who occupied the area from roughly A.D. 1250-1400. 

The West Oak Forest Earthlodge Site, Iowa
The Central Plains Tradition comprises a number of broadly similar archeological manifestations of Native American earthlodge-dwelling hunters and farmers living in what are today Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa during the 10th through 14th centuries A.D. 

Highlighted archeological properties for 2009

Prehistoric Archeology - Greenfield Man Mound, Sauk, WI

Greenfield Man Mound;
courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society

The mound, in the shape of a human figure, was originally discovered in 1859.

It is the only surviving earthen anthropomorphic effigy in the Upper Midwest . The figure is the sole mound at a small Late Woodland Stage/Effigy Mound culture mortuary and ceremonial center (ca. AD 750-1200). The Man Mound is a rare example of a pre-Contact era monumental Native American depiction of a human or humanoid form. Other monumental depictions of human beings have been recorded in North America, but are executed in other media, like rock arrangements or geoglyphs.

Man Mound exhibits an unusual degree of anatomical detail, and is shown in an active pose, walking towards the western horizon. The rare form of the mound and the high artistic values embodied in the figure compared to other anthropomorphic effigies make this site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places at the national level.

This site also has the potential to yield important information about cosmological beliefs, ritual activity, and social organization during the Late Woodland stage (AD 700-1200). As the only surviving example of an anthropomorphic effigy mound, a form that likely depicts a shaman or deity prominent in Late Woodland cosmology (and potentially ancestral to similar figures documented in the post-Contact era).

Artifacts from The Portland shipwreck and remains

Shipwreck Archeology - The Portland, Mass.

After nearly a century of fruitless searches, shipwreck researchers finally located the Portland in 1989 in deep water. The inaccessibility of the site and the integrity of its finder prevented salvage or other major human disturbances from damaging the site. The Portland's remains are the best preserved of any New England night boat located to date, including the steamships Rhode Island and Larchmont sunk off Rhode Island. The surviving structure of the Portland comprises a physical record of late nineteenth century New England night boat and embodies the culmination of night boat form and design. Furthermore, the steamship's remains document the events of a poorly understood tragedy that had far reaching social impacts for New Englanders.

The Portland sailed from Boston on 26 November 1898 under the command of Hollis Blanchard, carrying approx. 200 passengers and crew and a large shipment of freight. It was a clear night as Portland left Boston Harbor, but within hours the collision of two weather disturbances produced heavy snow and winds over 90 mph. Ultimately the storm overcame the steamship. There were no survivors and the entire New England coast was devastated. “Many a great battle does not present such a list of fatalities as this single wreck,” the Boston Post reported.

Camp Nelson Soldiers Home ca. 1861
Photograph by New York Public Library on Flickr

Civil War Archeology - Camp Nelson, KY

Camp Nelson is extremely significant at a national level as a Civil War site for the many critical functions it provided for the Union war effort and for the role it played in the freedom of Kentucky's enslaved population. These activities included: 1) African-American recruitment and training center ; 2) African-American refugee camp; 3) fortified military supply depot and garrison; 4) supply center for three important military campaigns; 5) recruitment center for Central and Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee troops; and 6) hospital. As a Union depot within a slave-holding, but Union leaning, state, and as a recruitment and refugee camp for formerly enslaved African Americans, Camp Nelson represents a microcosm of the burning social and political issues that divided the nation and brought on the Civil War.

Camp Nelson is not only a significant place because of its association with and major role in the American Civil War, but also because of the data it still contains in its archaeological deposits. Many features, including post molds, refuse pits, refuse ditches, privies and cellars, building walls, piers and chimneys, and activity areas for blacksmithing and other tasks were excavated. The excavations revealed that the Army maps, as detailed as they are, do not include all of the buildings established at the camp.

Research on these materials has focused on determining functions of different areas within these sites and how functions changed over time; differences in material culture consumption and dining patterns for white troops, U.S. Colored Troops, officers, and civilian employees; variation in building construction and symbolic dimensions of camp architecture; and general issues of furnishing and supply.

Canoe Graveyard

Native American Canoe Graveyard - Florida

In 2000, a local man discovered over 200 exposed canoes in recently receded waters of the lake near his home. When archeologists studied the site, these 200 canoes were found to be of American Indian origin. Radio carbon dates indicate that the canoes date from the Middle Archaic to the Alachua Period (5290- 435 B.P.). Furthermore, although over 200 canoes have been recorded in the state prior to this discovery, few have been recorded in situ. At a basic level, the site is significant as it affords the opportunity to document and study prehistoric watercraft in the context in which they were used.

The primary significance of the Canoe Graveyard Site is that it has yielded and has the potential to continue to yield important information on the prehistoric occupants of the region. The large number of canoes as well as their wide temporal range further allows for addressing stylistic and functional attributes of the watercraft and their potential cultural affiliations. The canoe site also shows the continuity of boat building traditions that continue to be an important aspect of modem Native American culture in the area.

The tremendous potential of the Canoe Graveyard site far exceeds the canoes themselves. The organic sediments in which the canoes are shrouded provide the opportunity to address the paleo-environmental setting in which the site occupants created and used the canoes. Interdisciplinary researchers fascinated by the questions the canoes pose:

•  What are the cultural and environmental variables that led to such a large number of canoes over such a long period of time at this lake?

•  Would it have been possible to access the Atlantic coast via the chain of lakes and swamps east of the Lake that eventually connect to a larger River?

•  Is it possible to refine dendrochronological data for the southeastern United States using the logs from which the canoes were manufactured?

•  What are the sources of the ceramic clays and chert materials that found their way to this lake?

•  Is the concentration of canoes at the northern end of the lake a result of abandonment at that location or a result of post-depositional processes such as storms or wind?

•  Minimally what about the role of prehistoric boat/canoe manufacturing to extant Native American groups and our understanding of this ancient craft and its significance to maritime archaeology?

•  What can we learn (and vice versa) from modern Native American boatsmen concerning manufacture, tools, planning, design, form, function, need, etc.?

•  How can this better help us to understand ancient canoe manufacture and maritime archaeology?

These questions are but a fraction of those already raised, let alone others not yet contemplated, that can be addressed with this significant site.

Clark Tenant Farm Site
Artifacts #589: clear glass patent medicine bottle c. 1900; Recovered 1996

20th Century Archeology - Clark Tenant Farm, CT

The Clark Farm Tenant House Site in East Granby, Connecticut, is significant for its potential to shed light on the lifeways of rural farm laborers, a group that is not as well represented in traditional history writing as their more affluent neighbors.

Although many hired men shared the Yankee background of their more prosperous neighbors, persons of African American or European-immigrant heritage made up a high percentage of Connecticut's farm laborers.The Clark Farm Tenant House Site offers an opportunity to sample the material culture of farm laborers and learn more about the type of house they lived in, what they ate, how they dressed, and what particular skills they practiced within the local agrarian economy. The limited archaeological testing already performed suggests that the site has good integrity and could, if additional investigation were undertaken, be expected to yield additional informative artifacts such as ceramics, buttons and buckles, tool fragments, bottles, and botanical and faunal remains.

The site is significant because of its associative value in connection with an important broad historical pattern, the increased reliance on farm labor that accompanied the commercialization of agriculture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The site maintains its integrity of location and setting; although the land surrounding the foundation is no longer used for agriculture, it remains open and constitutes a rural landscape that is appropriate to the site's historical function as the residence of farm laborers.

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