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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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Boundaries define the horizontal extent of a historic property. Defining the perimeter of an archeological site is often difficult because of the unique environmental setting and archeological characteristics of individual properties. There is no single standard method for defining the extent of an archeological site's boundaries.

The methods for defining and documenting the boundaries of an archeological property should be explicitly described. Although final boundaries may have to be determined after data analysis is complete, the archeologist should make every effort to define preliminary boundaries of the property while in the field (For further guidance, consult the National Register bulletin Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties and its appendix, Definition of National Register Boundaries for Archeological Properties).

The intent of the "Geographical Data" section of the National Register nomination is to define the location and extent of the property being nominated. The parameters that physically define and describe the property's boundaries and the rationale for establishing those parameters are of paramount importance in this section.

Absolute boundary definition is often not achievable, especially for archeological properties. Nevertheless, for public administration purposes, defensible boundaries are required. This means that the boundaries chosen have to be justified and that justification must be consistent with the information presented in the description and significance sections.

When selecting boundaries, keep in mind the following general guidelines:

. The boundaries should encompass, but not exceed, the full extent of the significant resources and land area making up the property;
. Buffer zones or acreage not directly contributing to the significance of the property should be excluded;
. Include landscape features that are important in understanding the property;
. A setting that directly contributes to the significance of the property may be included;
. Leave out peripheral areas of the property that no longer retain integrity;
. As a general rule, because it is inconsistent with the concept of a site or district representing a discrete entity, specific areas within the boundaries of the property cannot be excluded from the nomination of the property. If the district does contain individual resources or areas that are linked by historic association or function but are separated geographically, then it may be appropriate to describe and evaluate the property as a discontiguous district.

National Register bulletins provide guidance on defining boundaries, including How to Complete the National Register Registration Form, and Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties and its appendix, Definition of National Register Boundaries for Archeological Properties.

Note that for discontiguous districts, each separate area of land must be described in terms of acreage, Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) references, a boundary description, and a boundary justification.


Enter the total acreage for the property. Acreage should be accurate to the nearest whole acre; or, if known, to the nearest tenth of an acre. If the property is less than one acre, enter "less than one acre." On the other hand, if the property acreage is known to be, for example 0.7 acres, then 0.7 may be entered instead. (For properties that are more than 100 acres, a United States Geological Survey (USGS) acreage estimator or other accurate methodmay be used to calculate the acreage). If the property is a discontiguous district, then the acreage for each area must be listed as well as the total acreage (e.g., A = 0.3; B = 1.2; and C = 5.7 acres. Total = 7.2 acres).


Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid references are used to identify the exact location of the property. A USGS quadrangle map and a UTM coordinate counter are tools for determining UTM reference points. Other methods for accurately determining UTMs, such as GPS, are also acceptable. Many state historic preservation offices will assist applicants in completing this item. Appendix VIII of How to Complete the National Register Registration Form and Using the UTM Grid System to Record Historic Sites (only available on the National Register Web site at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications) provides instructions on how to determine UTMS. The following are general guidelines that apply to all kinds of properties:

. For properties that are less than 10 acres, enter the UTM reference for the point corresponding to the center of the property;
. For properties of 10 or more acres enter three or more UTM references. The references should correspond to the vertices of a polygon drawn on the USGS map accompanying the nomination;
. For linear properties of 10 or more acres, such as canals or trails, enter three or more UTM references, all of which should correspond to points along the line drawn on the accompanying USGS map;
. If UTM references define the boundaries of the property, as well as indicate the location, the polygon or line delineated by the references must correspond exactly to the property's boundaries;
. If the property is a discontiguous district, then a UTM reference is needed for each area. Three or more UTM references will be needed for those areas that are greater than ten acres.


(summarized from How to Complete the National Register Registration Form, p. 57)

The selection of boundaries for archeological sites and districts depends primarily on the scale and horizontal extent of the significant features. A regional pattern or assemblage of remains, a location of repeated habitation, a location or a single habitation, or some other distribution of archeological evidence, all imply different spatial scales. Although it is not always possible to determine the boundaries of a site conclusively, a knowledge of local cultural history and related features such as site type can help predict the extent of a site. Consider the property's setting and physical characteristics along with the results of archeological survey to determine the most suitable approach.

Obtain evidence through one or several of the following techniques:

. Subsurface testing, including test excavations, core and auger borings, and observation of cut banks;
. Surface observation of site features and materials that have been uncovered by plowing or other disturbance or that have remained on the surface since deposition;
. Observation of topographic or other natural features that may or may not have been present during the period of significance;
. Observation of land alterations subsequent to site formation that may have affected the integrity of the site;
. Study of historical or ethnographic documents, such as maps and journals.

If the techniques listed above cannot be applied, set the boundaries by conservatively estimating the extent and location of the significant features. Thoroughly explain the basis for selecting the boundaries in the boundary justification section.

If a portion of a known site cannot be tested because access to the property has been denied by the owner, the boundaries may be drawn along the legal property lines of the portion that is accessible, provided that portion by itself has sufficient significance to meet the National Register criteria and the full extent of the site is unknown.

Archeological districts may contain discontiguous elements under the following circumstances:

1. When one or several outlying sites has a direct relationship to the significance of the main portion of the district, through common cultural affiliation or as related elements of a pattern of land use; and
2. When the intervening space does not have known significant resources.

(Geographically separate sites not forming a discontiguous district may be nominated together as individual properties within a multiple property submission.)



The verbal boundary description is a textual description of the boundary of the property as shown on the maps accompanying the nomination. It usually takes one of the following forms:

. a legal parcel number (e.g., Henderson County tax map 40, parcel 0024);
. a block and lot number (e.g., Block or Square 52, Lot 006);
. a subsection of a section within the Township and Range system (e.g., NW 1/4, NW 1/4, SE 1/4 of Section 11, Township 10S, Range 7E);
. metes and bounds (e.g., From the north side of the intersection of Walnut Creek and County Highway 36, the boundary proceeds in a northwest direction for 600 feet, the boundary line then turns and heads east for 200 feet, at which point the boundary turns and proceeds in a south-southeast direction to the original starting point.) This type of description should always begin at a readily identifiable feature located on the ground as well as on the map.
. the dimensions of a parcel of land fixed upon a given point such as the intersection of two streets, a benchmark, the tip of a spit of land jutting into a bay (e.g., The property boundary forms a rectangle which is 2000' in a north-south direction and 1000' in an east-west direction. The property's southeast corner corresponds to the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Main Ave.).

A map drawn to a scale of at least 1" = 200' may be used in place of a verbal description. When using a map for this purpose, note under the heading "Verbal Boundary Description" that the boundaries are indicated on the accompanying base map. For example, "The boundary of the property is shown as the dashed line on the accompanying Willow Creek County parcel map #14." The map must have a scale and a north arrow and clearly show the relationship between the archeological property, its boundaries, and the surrounding natural and cultural features. The primary disadvantage of simply referring to a map for the property boundary is a pragmatic one-if the map is misplaced, then the location cannot be accurately determined.

If the boundaries of a large property are exactly the same as the UTM polygon, then the boundaries marked on the USGS map may be used in place of a verbal boundary description. For example, the boundary of the Anywhere Archeological District is delineated by the polygon whose vertices correspond to the following points: A 18 213600 4136270; B 18 322770 4125960; and C 18 314040 4166790. If the UTM polygon is the same as the property's boundaries, then the boundaries of the property may be recreated even if the map is misplaced.


The boundary justification explains the reasons for selecting the boundaries of the property. The reasons should follow from the description and significance discussions. For archeological properties more than one reason may apply. All the reasons should be given and linked to the boundaries as they are drawn on the map. For example, "The property's western and southern boundaries correspond to the historic boundary of the property; the northern boundary follows the shoreline of the bay, which has not changed since the time period of the property's significance; and the eastern boundary corresponds to the eastern extent of intact archeological deposits. These boundaries encompass all of the archeological deposits and above-ground features and structures associated with the property."

For discontiguous districts, explain how the property meets the condition for a discontiguous district and how the boundaries were selected for each area. If the boundary justification is the same for all the areas of the district, simply present the justification and explain that this applies to each of the areas and list them.


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