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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Archeological Properties

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

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When completing the National Register form with name and locational information, pleaseconsult the previous section "When should information about historic properties be restricted from public access?" In some cases, the common name of a site may give its location. In such cases, a Smithsonian trinomial or similar designation may be more appropriate as the preferred name.



Most archeological properties are classified either as a site or as a district. A site is the location of a significant event or of historical human occupation or activity. The location must possess historical, cultural, or archeological value regardless of the value of any existing building or structure. Comprising the remains of a sixteenth- through nineteenth-century Spanish mission, Mission Socorro in El Paso County, Texas, is an example of an archeological site. Established after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, this property functioned as a refugee mission for the Piro Indians. This site contains a material record of Piro acculturation into the Spanish and subsequent Anglo-American cultures. Study of the property could reveal information about lifeways at eighteenth-century Spanish missions and changes in Spanish and Native American technology, society, and ideology in a colonial frontier setting.

A district is a grouping of sites, buildings, structures, or objects that are linked historically by function, theme, or physical development or aesthetically by plan. The properties within a district are usually contiguous. For example, the Wakulla Springs Archeological and Historical District in Florida contains 55 archeological properties and six buildings that contribute to this diverse National Register district with a period of significance beginning in 15,000 B.C. Because archeological investigations are labor intensive and time consuming, survey and evaluation of 100 percent of the resources within a proposed archeological district may be impractical, if not unattainable. If it can be demonstrated that the area between the individual properties, although not completely surveyed, is likely to contain significant resources related to the documented properties, then classification as a district may still be appropriate despite the lack of a 100 percent survey.

photo of Wakulla Springs Florida Archeological District
Figure 22: A contributing resource in the Wakulla Springs Florida Archeological District, this early twentieth-century turpentine processing camp was identified through surface evidence. (Stephen C. Byrne)

If sites have a direct relationship through cultural affiliation, related elements of a pattern of land use, or historical development, but they are not contiguous and the space between the sites is not significant, then the property is best described as a discontiguous district.

A discontiguous district is most appropriate where:

. Elements, such as sites, are spatially discrete;
. Space between the elements, or sites, has not been demonstrated to be significant as it relates to the district;
. Visual continuity is not a factor in the significance.

The Brogan Mound and Village Site in Clay County, Mississippi, is an example of a discontiguous district. This property consists of a Middle Woodland burial mound and an associated multi-component habitation area approximately 200 meters away. A highway right-of-way and a house occupy the area between these portions of the district.


Multiple Property Submissions comprise a group of individual properties that share a common theme or historic context. Multiple property nominations facilitate the evaluation and registration of individual properties by grouping them with other properties with similar characteristics. A Multiple Property Submission calls for the development of historic contexts, selection of related property types, and the identification and documentation of related significant properties. It may be based on the results of a comprehensive interdisciplinary survey for a specific area, county, or region of a state, or it may be based on an intensive study of the resources illustrative of a specific type of site, a single cultural affiliation, or a single or closely related group of historic events or activities.

Multiple Property Submissions are made up of a cover document (NPS 10-900-b) and individual nomi- nations. The cover document includes the following sections: Statement of Historic Contexts; Associated Property Types; Geographical Data; Summary of Identification and Evaluation Methods; and Major Bibliographic References. The individual nominations, which can be districts, sites, structures, buildings and/or objects, include brief description and significance sections and boundary and bibliographic infor- mation. Multiple Property Submissions are designed to facilitate evaluating the eligibility and/or nominating additional properties at a later date.

Previously prepared Multiple Property Submissions can be useful guides to appropriate historic contexts and registration requirements for archeological properties. Multiple property submissions are discussed in the National Register bulletin How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form. The National Register maintains a list of approved multiple property submissions; the list and copies of the documentation are available upon request and on the web at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/research/mplist.htm. A list of current multiple property submissions under which archeological properties have been nominated is included as Appendix B in this bulletin.


A district possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development. Examples: college campuses; central business districts; residential areas; commercial areas; large forts; industrial complexes; civic centers; rural villages; canal systems; collections of habitation and limited activity sites; irrigation systems; large farms, ranches, estates, or plantations; transportation networks; and large landscaped parks.

A site is the location of a significant event, a pre or post-contact occupation or activity, or a building or structure, whether standing, ruined, or vanished, where the location itself possesses historic, cultural, or archeological value regardless of the value of any existing structure. Examples: habitation sites, funerary sites; rock shelters; village sites; hunting and fishing sites; ceremonial sites; petroglyphs; rock carvings; gardens; battlefields; ruins of historic buildings and structures; campsites; sites of treaty signing; trails; areas of land; shipwrecks; cemeteries; designed landscapes; and natural features, such as springs, rock formations, and land areas having cultural significance.

A building, such as a house, barn, church, hotel, or similar construction, is created principally to shelter any form of human activity. "Building" may also be used to refer to a historically and functionally related unit, such as a courthouse and a jail or a house and a barn. Examples: Houses; barns; stables; sheds; garages; courthouses; city halls; social halls; commercial buildings; libraries; factories; mills; train depots; stationary mobile homes; hotels; theaters; schools; stores; and churches.

The term "structure" is used to distinguish those functional constructions made usually for purposes other than creating human shelter. Examples: bridges; tunnels; gold dredges; fire towers; canals; turbines; dams; power plants; corncribs; silos; roadways; shot tower; windmills; grain elevators; kilns; mounds; cairns; palisade fortifications; earthworks; railroad grades; systems of roadways and paths; boats and ships; railroad locomotives and cars; telescopes; carousels; bandstands; gazebos; and aircraft.

The term "object" is used to distinguish those constructions that are primarily artistic in nature or are relatively small in scale and simply constructed. Although it may be, by nature or design, movable, an object is associated with a specific setting or environment. Examples: sculpture; monuments; boundary markers; statuary; and foundations.


A contributing site, building, structure, or object adds to the historical associations, historic architectural qualities, or archeological values for which a property is significant. A contributing resource has the following characteristics:

. It was present during the period of time that the property achieved its significance;
. It relates to the documented significance of the property;
. It possesses historical integrity or is capable of yielding important information relevant to the significance of the property.

A noncontributing building, site, structure, or object does not add to the historical associations, historic architectural qualities, or archeological values for which a property is significant because:

. It was not present during the period of time that the property achieved its significance;
. It does not relate to the documented significance of the property;
. Due to alterations, disturbances, additions, or other changes, it no longer possesses historical integrity or is capable of yielding important information relevant to the significance of the property.

Contributing and noncontributing resources need to be differentiated and tallied. Identify all sites, buildings, structures, and objects located within the property's boundaries that are substantial in size and scale and determine which are contributing and which are noncontributing. As a general rule:

. Count a geographically continuous site as a single unit regardless of its size or complexity;
. Count separate areas of a discontiguous district as separate entities (e.g., sites, structures, etc.);
. Do not count minor resources (such as small sheds, grave markers, or machinery) unless they are important to the property's significance;
. Do not count architectural ruins separately from the site of which they are a part;
. Do not count landscape features (such as fences and paths) separately from the site of which they are a part unless they are particularly important or intrusive. For example, a narrow gravel pathway built 10 years ago to guide tourists from one mission building to another should not be counted.
. Do not count individual archeological components of stratified archeological sites separately;

A landscape feature, such as a formal garden or complex of formal gardens, may be classified and counted either as a site or as a district. Landscape features associated with archeological properties, however, will generally be counted as sites. The National Register bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Rural Historic Landscape and the National Register bulletin How to Evaluate and Nominate Designed Historic Landscapes provide guidance on defining, describing, and evaluating rural and designed landscapes. Refer to How to Complete the National Register Registration Form for further guidance on counting resources.

Situation Classification
1870s homestead archeological
site with no standing structures
or above-ground ruins.
1870s homestead archeological
site with a standing barn and
house dating to the 1870s.
1870s homestead archeological
site situated atop and adjacent
to important pre-contact
archeological deposits.
Four 1870s homestead sites
adjacent to one another.
A pre-contact irrigation system
fragmented by modern developments.
Discontiguous District
Three historically-related shipwrecks
that are located approximately
one-quarter mile apart.
Discontiguous District
Twenty shell midden sites located
within a particular county.
Multiple Property Submission


Historic function or use relates to the function of the property during the time period associated with the property's significance. Current function refers to the present-day function/use of the property. Historic function and current function for archeological properties usually differ. For example, a Colonial-period site with a buried foundation of a county courthouse that is currently under cultivation has a historic function of GOVERNMENT/ county courthouse and a current function of AGRICULTURE / SUBSISTENCE/ agricultural field. If none of the listed functions and uses is appropriate, then the "Other" category may be checked and a description filled in.

Note that completion of the "Functions/Uses" category is especially important. There is no site-type category, in the sense that archeologists use the term, on the nomination form. Since most archeological properties are classified by function or use, the Function/Use designation approximates a site-type designation.


The descriptive categories, Architectural Classification and Material, are applicable only for archeological sites that have standing buildings or structures. If the property has a standing, contributing structure or building then these descriptive categories must be completed.

Data categories for "Architectural Classification" and architectural style references are listed in How to Complete the National Register Registration Form. These categories represent American architectural styles. If the building or structure does not fit into the classification scheme and an appropriate classification is known, then "Other" should be checked and the name written in-for example, "Other: Mesa Verde Pueblo." If a building or structure style is not listed in the "Architectural Classification" list and "Other" is inappropriate, then "No Style" should be entered.

Architectural classification such as categories, subcategories, and other stylistic terminology have not been established for ruins. Ruins are defined by the National Register as buildings or structures that no longer possess original design or structural integrity. When there is considerable structural integrity still remaining, which is the case at many pueblos, the property should be classified as buildings rather than ruins. The principal existing and visible exterior materials, whether historic or non-historic, of standing buildings or structures or of above ground ruins must be described. A listing of materials from which to choose is provided in How to Complete the National Register Registration Form. If there are no aboveground buildings, structures, or ruins, enter "N/A." For example, if there is a subsurface stone foundation but no above-ground evidence, "N/A" should be entered.

Category Subcategory
Domestic Single dwelling, multiple dwelling, secondary structure, hotel, institutional housing, camp, village site

Processing, storage, agricultural field, animal facility, fishing facility or site, horticultural facility, agricultural outbuilding, irrigation facility

Industry/Processing/ Extraction

Manufacturing facility, extractive facility, waterworks, energy facility, communications facility, processing site, industrial storage, quarry site, tool production site

Commerce/Trade Business, professional, organizational, financial institution, specialty store, department store, restaurant, warehouse, trade (archeology)
Transportation Rail-related, air-related, water-related, road-related (vehicular), pedestrian-related, trail
Government Capitol, city hall, correctional facility, fire station, government office, diplomatic building, custom house, post office, public works, courthouse
Defense Arms storage, fortification, military facility, battle site, Coast Guard facility, naval facility, air facility
Recreation and Culture Theater, auditorium, museum, music facility, sports facility, outdoor recreation, fair, monument/marker, work of art
Landscape Parking lot, park, plaza, garden, forest, unoccupied land, underwater, natural feature, street furniture/ object, conservation area
Education School, college, library, research facility, education-related
Religion Religious facility, ceremonial site, church school, church-related residence
Funerary Cemetery, graves/burial, mortuary
Health Care Hospital, clinic, sanitarium, medical business/office, resort
Social Meeting hall, clubhouse, civic
Vacant/Not in Use (Use this category when the property is not being used)
Work in Progress  


The narrative description is the text that describes the archeological property as it was in the past (i.e., during its "period of significance") and as it is in the present. It also describes the property's environmental or physical condition, including the property's past environmental setting and its current setting. The property's physical integrity should also be discussed. There is no outline that must be followed when describing archeological properties. Many preparers, however, have found the following outline useful.


Summarize the highlights of the information presented in the description narrative. At a minimum, the summary paragraph(s) should identify the general location of the property, its type, period of significance, the cultural group(s) associated with the property, the range of contributing resources, and the integrity of the property and its setting. Note that the period of significance and the cultural group associated with the property will be discussed more fully in the preceding "Evaluating Significance" section. For the purposes of this summary, these subjects should be discussed to the level needed to provide the reader with a basic orientation regarding the property.


Describe the present and, if different, the relevant past environment and physical setting that prevailed during the property's period(s) of occupation or use, or period of significance. This description should focus on the environmental features or factors that are or were relevant to the location, use, formation, or preservation of the archeological property.


Identify the time period when the property is known or projected to have been occupied or used. Explain how the period of time was determined, especially the beginning and end dates. Include comparisons with similar properties if data from them were used to establish the time period. The period of occupation often corresponds to the period of significance. Note that the individual period(s) of occupation or use is discussed in detail under the physical description of the property. This section is intended to be more general and inclusive of the periods of occupation.


Identify those who, through their activities, created the archeological property or, in the case of a district, occupied or used the area and created the sites within it. Discuss the supporting evidence for making such a determination.


Describe the physical make up of the nominated property or properties. Where appropriate, the description of a site or a district should include the following:


.Site type, such as village, quarry, tavern, rural homestead, military fortification, or shoe factory;
.Important (or contributing) standing structures, buildings, or ruins;
.Kinds and approximate number or density of features (e.g., middens, hearths, roads, or garden terraces), artifacts (e.g., manos and metates, lithic debitage, medicine bottles), and ecofacts (e.g., insects, macrobotanical remains);
.Known or projected depth and extent of the archeological deposits and the supporting evidence for archeological integrity. Known or projected dates for the period(s) in which the site was occupied or used and the supporting evidence;
.Vertical and horizontal distribution of features, artifacts, and ecofacts;
.Natural and cultural processes, such as flooding and refuse disposal, that have influenced the formation of the site; .Noncontributing buildings, structures, and objects within the site.


.Type of district, such as an eighteenth-century New England village or a Middle Woodland mound group.

.Cultural, historical, or other relationships among the sites that make the district a cohesive unit.

. Kinds and number of contributing sites, buildings, structures, and objects that make up the district.

. Information on individual or representative sites and other resources within the district. Refer to the "Physical Characteristics" of a site previously presented. For districts with few significant archeological resources (usually sites), describe the individual sites. For archeological districts with a number of resources (usually sites), describe the most representative resources or types of resources and present the data on the individual resources in a table.

. Noncontributing sites, buildings, structures, and objects within the district.


Because of limited data, this description is often general and speculative, especially if above-ground elements no longer exist. Nevertheless, the description should be consistent with the description of the archeological remains. Knowledge of similar properties that have been comprehensively investigated may be used to support the description. A description of the property as it likely appeared in the past is particularly useful in evaluating integrity.


Identify the impacts, natural and cultural, past and current, on or immediately around the property, such as modern development, vandalism, neglect, road construction, agriculture, soil erosion, or flooding. For a district, describe the integrity of the district as a whole and the integrity of individual sites. The emphasis in this section should be on identifying the kinds of impacts and assessing the extent or degree of impact. If qualitative categories, such as "high," "low," etc., are used, then these should be defined.


As defined by the National Register, properties that are eligible for inclusion have integrity. Integrity has seven aspects: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. As with much of the National Register nomination process, assessment of the archeological integrity at a particular historic property or district depends upon the identified historic contexts, questions, and research design. A comprehensive, accurate, and explicit evaluation of archeological integrity is an essential part of any nomination. For further discussion of integrity, refer to "Aspects, or Qualities, of Integrity," in Section IV of this bulletin for further guidance.


Previous investigations are discussed for the purposes of (1) documenting disturbances from archeological investigations, (2) identifying the information that the property has already yielded, and (3) determining, in part, the information potential if additional studies are conducted at the property. The following topics should be addressed: archival, literature, and oral history research; the extent and purpose of any excavation, testing, mapping, or surface collection; dates of relevant research and field work and pertinent biases; the identity of the researchers and, if relevant, their institutional or organizational affiliation; and directly relevant bibliographic references. Focus on those studies that pertain to the specific property being nominated. Other relevant studies and research should become evident through reading the "Contexts" section in the narrative significance discussion. Of particular importance are the archeological studies conducted to identify the property and to determine its horizontal and vertical extent and its integrity. Identify the location of repositories where collections and site records are maintained.


List the contributing and noncontributing resources if they have not already been described as such in previous subsections. Often in the case of archeological properties, all categories of resources except "site" are noncontributing. When this occurs, the preparer simply needs to state, for example, that "all nine buildings on the property postdate the period of significance and are noncontributing resources" and that "there is only one contributing resource-the archeological site." Note that the totals of the contributing and noncontributing counts in the text must match with those found on the National Register form under the heading "Number of Resources within Property" and match those identified on the site map.



Summary of Significance:
Fort Davis, in Jeff Davis County, Texas

The significance of Fort Davis, 41SE289, lies in the fact that it was a major force in providing protection for Euro-American settlers who remained in the Rolling Plains southwest of Fort Worth during the Civil War. In the absence of adequate military protection, families realized they would have to "fort up" together, or retreat east to larger settlements. Their decision to stay was an important determinant in the subsequent settlement and history of the western frontier of Texas following the Civil War, qualifying the site for listing on the National Register under Criterion A. Moreover, the site is significant as the only family fort that has been investigated archeologically, and contains an archeological assemblage of a very short time span (1864-1867) from families living at some distance from supplies during the Civil War. Such a collection will be of value to other researchers working on properties dating to this period. The cemetery is considered significant for the genealogical and historical data that it can provide concerning the fort residents and their descendants. Therefore, Fort Davis also meets Criterion D for inclusion in the National Register (Kenmotsu 1992).


Summary of Significance:
Cannonball Ruins, in Montezuma County, Colorado (Listed under the Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS)

Cannonball Ruins is eligible under Criterion D in the areas of Community Planning/Development and Ethnic Heritage. The site has the potential to provide information regarding the organization of pre-contact communities as well as information regarding Mesa Verde cultural tradition and how it contributes to historic Pueblo Indian culture. The site is also significant in the area of Agriculture for its ability to provide information regarding the role of intensified horticulture. Habitation sites with public architecture are extremely important to our understanding of Southwestern U.S. pre-contact political and social development, population aggregation and regional abandonment. Cannonball Ruins is eligible under Criterion A for association with the movement of Mesa Verde Anasazi settlements to canyon and canyon-head settings in the thirteenth century A. D., an event that made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of Southwestern prehistory. The site represents a well-preserved example of a thirteenth-century village and is one of the largest and last villages from this period. The site is also eligible under Criterion B because of its association with the life and career of Sylvanus G. Morley, a person significant in the history of American archeology. Cannonball Ruins was the only excavation Morley undertook in the continental United States and the one in which he obtained his first fieldwork experience. Cannonball Ruins is eligible under Criterion C for its architectural significance. The standing structures at the site embody the distinctive characteristics of "Hovenweep-type" architecture and construction.

The "Statement of Significance" is an analytical statement. It is the most important section of any archeological nomination, and documents and justifies the significance of the property. In this section the significance of the property is justified by addressing applicable National Register criteria, areas of significance, period of significance, cultural affiliation, and, if applicable, criteria considerations, significant dates, significant persons, and the architect or builder.

With the exception of the "Summary of Significance" at the beginning of the section, there is no established outline for presenting the significance information. At a minimum, all statements of significance should describe the historic contexts used to evaluate the significance of the historic property, include a discussion of how the property is significant in these contexts, and an explanation of how archeological information provides important information for understanding these contexts (See also "Evaluating Sites in Context," in Section IV of this bulletin).

The "Summary of Significance" is a concise statement, accompanied by the supporting rationale, of why the property is significant. The criterion or criteria under which the property is being nominated and the areas of significance should be cited. In addition, the important information that the property is likely to yield should be summarized.


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