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 graphic] National Register Bulletin: Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties

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

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Edited by: Barbara J. Little, Beth L. Savage, and John H. Sprinkle, Jr.










The first version of National Register Bulletin: Definition of National Register Boundaries for Archeological Properties was edited by National Register Historian Beth L. Savage and released in 1985. The compilation of that bulletin was the result of the work of numerous individuals. Issues relating to the delineation of boundaries for archeological nominations were identified as a National Register Bulletin topic in the early 1980s by a committee of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, led by Valerie A. Talmage, former State Historic Preservation Officer of Massachusetts. Earlier work by Bruce MacDougal and Herbert Brito on boundary delineation for National Register properties served as a framework for the bulletin. Yvonne Stewart, Carol Dubie and John Knoerl played integral roles in the bulletin's completion. Helpful suggestions provided by the staff of the National Register and Planning Branches, Interagency Resources Division, and the insightful comments of many State Historic Preservation Offices contributed to the final publication.

Answering an expressed need to provide continuing guidance in the area of delineating boundaries for archeological properties, the National Register reevaluated the usefulness of the original version of Bulletin 12 in 1994. We thank the following for their comments: Carl Barna (BLM), Colorado Historical Society, John Cornelison (NPS Southeast Archeology Center), Frank R. Finch (Department of the Army), Leland Gilson (Oregon SHPO), J. Bennett Graham (Tennessee Valley Authority), Richard R. Hoffman (FERC), Diane Holliday (State Historical Society of Wisconsin), Elizabeth Horvath (NPS Southeast Archeology Center), Judy McDonough (Massachusetts SHPO, Massachusetts Historical Commission), Arleen Pabon (Puerto Rico SHPO), Gary Shaffer, (Maryland Historical Trust), Herschel Shepard (University of Florida), Robert E. Stipe, Lois Thompson (DOE), Western Regional Office, Valerie Talmage (former Massachusetts SHPO) and Richard Guy Wilson (University of Virginia).

Several reviewers suggested incorporating National Register Bulletin: Definition of National Register Boundaries for Archeological Properties into a more broadly applicable boundary bulletin. In 1995, a revised National Register Bulletin: Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties was issued. This current reprint of that bulletin incorporates an updated and streamlined version of National Register Bulletin: Definition of National Register Boundaries for Archeological Properties as this appendix. John H. Sprinkle, Jr., (Woodward-Clyde Federal Services) wrote most of the new material on site definition and identified new examples. Barbara J. Little (Archeologist, National Register of Historic Places) organized the bulletin into this appendix and deleted redundant examples. Carol D. Shull supervised the revisions. Mary F. McCutchan edited the text and prepared it for publication. Jan Townsend, Antoinette J. Lee, and Beth Savage assisted with various aspects of its preparation.


This appendix defines recommended approaches, with illustrations where applicable, to delineating boundaries for archeological properties. Section II defines the concept of an archeological site. How archeologists define the boundaries of archeological sites is outlined in Section III. Section IV presents case studies which address the delineation of archeological site boundaries for a variety of both hypothetical and actual National Register properties. The case studies illustrate the necessary details-including background information, boundary description, approaches used, and boundary justification-with acceptable delineated boundaries which typify situations commonly encountered in preparing nominations.

In each of the examples, the property has already been determined eligible for listing in the National Register. The cases are chosen to illustrate decisions regarding boundaries.

Reflecting the various types of historical associations retained by cultural resources, many historic properties are eligible for inclusion in the National Register under more than one of the four Criteria: A, B, C, or D. However, the National Register recognizes only one boundary for each historic property. A site that is eligible under Criterion D for the important information contained in its buried remains, may also be eligible under Criterion A for its significance to modern Native American groups as a Traditional Cultural Property. Although the physical boundaries of the archeological site may be relatively small, the larger boundaries of the traditional place would be represented in the National Register. Whatever the criteria for eligibility, historic properties should always be delineated by their largest relevant boundary.

One continuing issue with historic properties that happen to be archeological sites is the destructive nature of archeological investigation. The National Register does not, as a rule, list archeological sites that have been the subject of complete excavation. The artifacts, field records, photographs, and other data collected through the process of excavation do not retain integrity of location or setting and thus are not eligible for inclusion. Some sites that were the locations of significant milestones in the history of American archeology are listed after excavation as historic sites.

However, very few archeological sites are completely excavated in today's world where archeological studies are usually conducted as part of cultural resource management activities. Archeological investigation is by definition a process of sampling the buried record of past lives. At most sites, portions of the site remain unexcavated. In addition, in the framework of data recovery, or Phase III excavations, only a portion of the site, that within the "limits of proposed construction" or "area of potential effects" is subject to intensive excavations. Often large portions of archeological sites located outside the "mitigated" areas survive the development process. Care should be given, at the completion of data recovery excavations, to evaluate and nominate the significant surviving portions of the "unmitigated" area of such archeological sites.

For example, in a recent case from a southeastern state, a large multi component archeological site, dating from the Late Archaic and Contact periods, was subject to data recovery excavations in the area slated for construction of a reservoir dam in the late 1980s. Subsequently in the mid 1990s, another portion of the site underwent Phase III excavations as the result of a second federal under aking. However, portions of the site located between the two areas of previous data recovery excavations have the potential to contain significant archeological information. Proposed for preservation in place, this surviving parcel is eligible for the National Register although the site as a whole has endured two previous data recovery operations.

Finally, the National Register has long recognized the disproportionate under-representation of archeological sites (approximately 7%) within its approximately 67,000 listed properties. Clearly, many thousands of historic buildings, structures, and districts contain unrecognized archeological components that are equally eligible for the National Register. The National Register has made amending nominations to include the archeological portions of currently listed historic properties, a relatively simple and straightforward process. Nominations may be quickly prepared or amended using the computer-resident nomination forms available from the National Register. Specific procedures for amending nominations can be found in National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form. Nomination amendments should be used to increase or decrease the boundaries of a property or district, as well as adding or subtracting criteria and areas of significance.

National Register nominations should not be considered static documents. Indeed, as land uses at a site change, or as further information is gathered, it may be desirable to update the nomination to reflect current conditions. Over the years, a National Register nomination may require a certain amount of "information maintenance" in order to reconsider the property's description, contributing elements, period of significance, applicable criteria, and of course, boundaries.


The main text of this bulletin (p.30) defines a site as "the location of a significant event, prehistoric or historic occupation or activity, or building or structure, (whether standing, ruined, or vanished) where the location itself possesses historic, cultural, or archeological value" and goes on to note that "the most common types of resources classified as sites are archeological resources."

Most archeologists practicing their craft today would agree that together with the artifact and the feature, the "archeological site" is one of the fundamental concepts in our discipline. Yet, it is sometimes difficult to find a simple, meaningful definition of what an archeological site is, and what it is not.

Archeologists have always recognized the site as one of the foundations of all research on past cultures. In his 1956 work, A Short Introduction to Archaeology, the British archeologist, V. Gordon Childe described how although "antiquities" could be commonly found either on the surface of the ground or through excavation, "such objects in themselves are only potential archeological data." Artifacts only become data "when classified in light of their associations, of the contexts in which they have been found" within archeological sites. Thus, for Childe, a "site" was simply the source of archeological information.

Field manuals for archeologists provide common definitions of archeological sites. A site is "a fairly continuous distribution of the remains of a former single unit of settlement" (Dancey 1981:13).

An archeological site is usually the scene of past human activity. It may be marked by the scanty remnants of a brief encampment, or by the abundant remains of a settled village. If a site shows evidence of repeated occupation or use, it is still considered a single site, but various levels or periods of use may be distinguished within it (Hester, Heizer, and Graham 1975:13).

Each archeological site is a unique time capsule. Each has its own distinct character and problems. Sites represent a body of data relevant to their setting and their cultural patterning and must be interpreted in relation to both this local setting and to their function as a link between cultures (Joukowsky 1980:35).

Outlining the mysteries of archeology in an effort to protect sites on private property, National Park Service archeologist Susan Henry (1993:6-7) relates several characteristics of sites:

The focus of the archeological attentions is the site--a place where human activity occurred. An archeological site has horizontal and vertical dimensions. Few archeological sites are simple and straightforward. Most are complex, containing diverse elements, or components, each of which may represent a different activity. All site components bear a relationship to one another, and all components, including the buildings and landscapes, need to be studied in order to understand the way of life once carried out at [a site].

Archeologists occasionally have pointed out that the site concept is inadequate because the archeological record often is not clustered. Several researchers have supplemented the site concept with that of "nonsite sites" (for example, Dunnell and Dancey 1983; Lewarch and O'Brien 1981). "Distributional archeology" (Ebert 1992) focuses on surface material rather than sealed sites in order to concentrate on human use of the whole landscape rather than on discrete, rare places. For the purpose of nominating an archeological site to the National Register, there must be clearly defined and justified boundaries. See Cases 15 and 16 for examples of delimiting site boundaries where the artifact record is continuous.

In an attempt to add consistency to the process of cultural resource management, many State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO) have offered specific statements on the characteristics of archeological sites. For SHPOs, the definition of archeological site is often tied to the process of completing an archeological site form, which forces the regulators to standardize terms and provide guidance for just what is and what is not a site. For example, Virginia's guidelines for archeological survey provide one definition of a site:

In general terms, an archeological site is defined as the physical remains of any area of human activity greater than 50 years of age for which a boundary can be established. Examples of such resources would include the following: domestic/habitation sites, industrial sites, earthworks, mounds, quarries, canals, roads, shipwrecks, etc. Under the general definition, a broad range of site types would qualify as archeological sites without the identification of any artifacts (VDHR 1996:1).

All archeological sites have some form of physical expression, either through the presence of artifacts or other evidence of modification of the natural world through human agents. It is difficult to think of an archeological site that would have no surviving physical remains. In fact, the National Register generally does not list archeological sites that have been fully excavated, that is, where no physical remains of the site survive, because of the loss of integrity.

The theoretical construct of "site" plays a fundamental role in the ways archeologists view past societies. Concepts regarding archeological sites can be expressed through four phrases:
1. Methodology Mechanics. The methods used by archeologists to look for sites influences the sites that are identified. This concept reinforces the traditional scientific and archeological premise that methods and theory fundamentally influence the nature of the recovered information. Thus, a clear definition of how to define the location and boundaries of sites must be an essential part of every archeologist's theoretical and methodological tool kit.
2. Artifact Axiom. An archeological site must have some physical evidence of occupation, use, or transformation. This evidence is usually in the form of artifacts, but also includes human alterations to the landscape. Without some form of physical presence it is impossible to define boundaries to archeological sites.
3. Density Dilemma. Is the center of the site the place with the most artifacts? The boundary of archeological sites should not be defined solely on the basis of artifact density revealed in an archeological survey. As the remains of past human activities, archeological sites may contain areas where artifact density is relatively low, separating two portions of the same site. In addition, various cultural and natural transformations have fundamentally altered the condition of readily apparent archeological sites. Through time, vegetation may obscure artifacts, plowed areas may blanket subsurface features, and soil movement by a variety of processes may have buried sites. The definition of a site's boundary must consider the land use history of the site as well as artifact density.
4. Present vs. Past. How certain are the limits of a prehistoric or historic period site? Obviously, the definition of an archeological site's boundaries is a judgment made in the present. It is molded by the archeologist's training, education, and view of the past. Care should be given to consider how the site may have been perceived in the past. Historic boundaries, if they can be defined or modeled, should be given primacy over modern boundaries.


While defining boundaries usually requires some limited excavation, it is also often possible to use nondestructive methods prior to archeological fieldwork to identify the location and extent of suspected subsurface features within archeological properties. Over the years, archeologists have adapted a variety of methods from other disciplines to see beneath the earth. Geophysical prospecting techniques most commonly used by archeologists include electrical resistivity and conductivity (including metal detectors), ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and magnetic prospecting. Analysis of soil chemistry also has been used successfully to identify sites and activity areas within sites. Aerial photography is a well-known technique used extensively to identify sites. Although some types of remote sensing can be executed by archeologists trained in their use, it is common to hire specialists because the techniques and technologies of remote sensing change rapidly.

Advantages to geophysical methods are that they are nondestructive (or minimally destructive) and are relatively fast. However, geophysics is an indirect science which detects "anomalies" which then usually require some level of sub-surface testing to verify as archeological resources.

Remote sensing is particularly useful in underwater archeological endeavors. In the case of one recently listed shipwreck along the eastern seaboard, the site was identified using a towed-array proton precision magnetometer as part of a state-sponsored survey. The 30- by 40-meter boundary of the site was identified by using metal detector survey as well as test excavations.

Clearly, as new technologies and methodologies are adapted to the needs of archeological investigations, these techniques can be used to help define boundaries of National Register properties.

Whether using new technologies or old, the level of effort to define boundaries should be an explicit part of research designs for archeological surveys designed to identify all potentially National Register eligible sites. In addition, the principles for demarcating the limits of archeological sites should also be explicitly stated in the survey methodology. Once defined, this methodology should be consistently applied to each potential archeological site identified in a survey.

National Register boundaries distinguish, from their surrounding environment, archeological sites meeting the National Register criteria for evaluation either individually or as contributing elements in an archeological district. Site boundaries often are reasonable distinctions that may not always reflect the spatial concepts implicit in certain theoretical perspectives, notably those of "nonsite" archeology. However, boundary determinations require clear recognition of how physical features and their mutual relationships form a "site." Usually this requires the archeologist to decide the degree of fall off in cultural material density that is no longer acceptable in order for an enclosed area to be considered part of the significant "site."

Boundaries for National Register properties are horizontal boundaries that can be clearly marked in two dimensions. Vertical boundaries of a site probably will have been established or predicted through testing to evaluate the site for significance.

Absolute boundary definition is often unachievable. Boundaries usually represent compromises reconciling both theory and field conditions to facilitate communication with agencies and the public about sensitive geographic locations having important concentrations of archeological information.

There are several methods for obtaining boundary evidence for archeological sites. These are summarized in Part III of this bulletin, in the section titled "Boundaries for Archeological Sites and Districts". Examples of each are provided in this appendix or in the main text of this bulletin. Each of the techniques used must be adequately documented in the text of the nomination.

The first two, "subsurface testing" and "surface observation," provide direct documentation of archeological resources. Several examples in the main text use these methods. See the discontiguous district of Crockett Canyon/Coyote Ranch Archeological District as well as most of the examples under "Archeological Sites and Districts". In this appendix see Case 1 for an example of direct documentation through subsurface testing and Case 2 for an example of surface observation.

The third method, "observation of topographic and other natural features," often provides logical and defendable boundaries for sites. For examples in the main text, see in particular Rockshelter Petroglyphs, Prehistoric Quartzite Quarry Archeological Site, and Harbor Island Historic and Archeological District. In this appendix see Case 3 for a further example.

The fourth technique, "observation of land alterations," includes the documentation of land disturbance that may have destroyed portions of a site, thereby indicating a boundary for the remaining resource. See Case 4 for an example. It may also involve documenting the lack of disturbance to a property as evidence supporting a site's integrity. This latter case is illustrated in Cases 5 and 6.

The last technique listed under "Guidelines for Selecting Boundaroes: Archeological Sites and Districts" is "study of historic or ethnographic documents." This technique often involves the use of maps and legal boundaries. Several examples in the main text illustrate the use of such documents for determining boundaries. See these contiguous districts in rural settings: The Woodlawn Historic and Archeological District, Bloomvale Historic District, Weyerhaueser South Bay Log Dump Rural Historic Landscape which can all be found in "Boundaries for Historic Districts" under "Case Studies." The boundaries for Pecos Archeological District are coterminous with the legal boundaries of Pecos National Historical Park. Cases 7, 8, and 9 in this appendix provide further examples.

In addition to these five techniques is the "property type model," which was defined in earlier editions of this appendix (as Definition of National Boundaries for Archeological Districts). The property type model is based on known site types. For example, a late archaic camp in a swampy area is discovered during a survey and is nominated for the important information potential of its well-preserved plant remains. However, testing was not done to determine the boundaries of the site. To describe and justify a boundary coterminous with the rise of land overlooking the swamp, a property type model could be used. Such a model would compare this type of site to other known sites in the region, clearly presenting and supporting the expected boundary for this type of site. Case 10 provides an example of the property type model.


It is an archeological truism that "every site is different." The process of determining the boundaries of an individual archeological site depends, to a certain degree, upon the individual characteristics of that site and its surroundings. The following case studies add to those presented in the main text. It is important to note that in most cases, more than one technique is used to determine boundaries.

Examples for each of the main techniques discussed above are provided first. Following those is Case 11, a district with boundaries based on more than one area and period of significance; Case 12, a site eligible under criteria A and D as both a traditional cultural place and an archeological site; Case 13, a boundary reduction; and Cases 14 and 15, examples of delimiting boundaries amid continuous distribution of artifacts.

Map of Shovel Test Pits
Figure 1. (Case 1). The site boundaries for this prehistoric archeological site from a state in the upper south were defined by the presence of artifacts recovered during shovel test pit excavation. The map included with the National Register nomination clearly shows the limits of the site with a bold line, illustrates the location of excavation units, and clearly locates the position of the site within a forested environment.
Case 1. Shovel Test Pits delimiting a prehistoric site located within a forest. A multicomponent prehistoric site was located within Federal property in a state in the upper South. The boundaries of the site were defined through the excavation of 46 shovel test pits and limited surface collection of artifacts along a road. Information potential and National Register eligibility was confirmed through the excavation of 15 1 x 1 meter test units. Although some disturbance to the site resulted, previous construction of the road does not appear to have significantly compromised the integrity of this property. In situ materials were found as deep as 50 cm below the present ground surface. The distribution of artifacts at this site conforms to a model of site definition in which the highest density of artifacts is judged to be located at the center of the site, with fewer artifacts found in outlying areas. The edge of the site is defined by the boundary between the presence of artifacts and the absence of artifacts, as revealed in test pits.
Boundary Description: The site is located along AAA Road with the extreme northeastern boundary being located approximately 3,000 feet north of the confluence of BBB Branch and CCC Branch, at an elevation of 1500 ft. amsl. From this point the site area follows the road to the west (which coincides with the contour of the ridge top) for an additional 1,000 feet. The site is confined to the north and south by its topographic situation; cultural materials were confined to the level or near level portions of the ridge system. (See Figure 1.)
Boundary Justification: The site boundaries were determined by the limits of cultural materials as defined by subsurface shovel testing. A surface collection along the road revealed a continuation of materials outside of the defined boundaries; however, it is likely that recent road improvement activities are responsible for the current location of these materials. For this reason, the boundaries as defined by the shovel testing appear to be the most accurate definition of the site's size and extent.

Map of Plowed Prehistoric Site
Figure 2. (Case 2). Located primarily within a plowed field, the bounds of this site were determined through direct documentation. Although no testing occurred within the woods to the north of the fields, the presence of higher artifact densities in this area suggested that the site continued beyond the plowed field.
Case 2. A Plowed Prehistoric Site Identified through Surface Collection, Natural Topography, and Land Disturbance. The site lies on a rise of land partly in a wooded lot (11.5 acres) and partly in a plowed field (ca.5 acres) entirely within property owned by a state agency. The site was discovered in 1981 when the State agency leased land for farming; the plowed field was surface-collected and artifacts and features were mapped. The site was defined by direct documentation (observation of surface features and surface collection; natural topographic features; and land disturbance.)
Boundary Description: The site is bounded on the south by the known extent of cultural materials, on the west by railroad tracks and on the north and east by a contour line defining a terrace overlooking a wetland (See Figure 2.)
Boundary Justification: The southern boundary of the site is established by the limit of cultural materials and features and roughly corresponds to a lowering in grade. The highest artifact densities recovered during surface collection were noted at the northern and western edges of the plowed field. By extrapolation, it is likely that the site extends into the wooded areas to the north and west. The western boundary is established by the railroad cut which corresponds roughly to the original terrace edge. The northern and eastern boundaries are set by the contour line marking an abrupt fall to the wetland.

Map of Prehistoric Site defined by Natural Topographic Features
Figure 3. (Case 3). The boundary of this site was primarily determined by topographic features and contains the ridge area encompassed by the 140-foot contour line. Archaic and Woodland prehistoric components, in addition to an eighteenth-century historic occupation, are constrained by a creek, swamps, and flood-plain settings.
Case 3. A Prehistoric Site Defined by Natural Topographic Features: The site was discovered in 1965 and was investigated archeologically between then and 1977 by the State University and the State Archeological Society. Excavations and surveys revealed that the site was occupied from Early Archaic through Woodland times and that a historic, eighteenth-century, English-colonial component is also present.
Boundary Description: The boundaries of the site correspond to the edges of an erosional remnant, the 140-foot contour line on the topographic quad, a ridge. The site is bounded by the creek and swamp on the northwest, and by low-lying floodplain on all other sides (See Figure 3.)
Boundary Justification: The boundaries of the site correspond to those of the landform on which it lies. Archeological investigations have revealed artifacts only in those areas above the 140-foot contour of the valley floor in all sampled areas of the ridge. The site's maximum length northeast to southwest is 2,500 feet, and its maximum width is 800 feet. The low-lying nature of the swamps and floodplain surrounding this erosional upland remnant presumably made this ridge the only habitable portion of the area, implying strongly that topography constituted a behavioral boundary here.

Map of Riverine Site
Figure 4. (Case 4.) The river and associated swamp form a natural boundary for this prehistoric site on its west, north, and east sides. The southern boundary was truncated by construction of a railroad seated at the base of a topographic rise.
Case 4. Documented Land Disturbance of a Riverine Site Defined by Natural Features and Modern Land Uses: A Woodland period prehistoric archeological site was identified by avocational archeologists and reported to the SHPO. The 50-acre site comprises surface finds along a floodplain adjacent to a meandering river course. No scientific excavations have been conducted at the site.
Boundary Description: The site is bounded by natural topographic features and manmade alterations to the landscape. The 600-foot contour line defines the northern, western, and eastern boundaries of the site. The southern portion of the site is defined by a railroad right-of-way which was constructed at the toe of a steep slope marking a topographic boundary as well as a manmade one (See Figure 4.)
Boundary Justification: The river forms a naturally occurring boundary to nearly three sides of the site. The area contained within the inside bend of the curve of the river had bearing on the living space which was available to prehistoric people. Surface collections have yielded prehistoric cultural materials over most of the dry land area to within a few feet of the present shore and as far south as the railroad easement. The marshy area lying between the 600-foot contour and the river was not included because interpretations of the environmental history of the site indicate that the area has been subjected to river scouring during various meander episodes, leading to little expectation of the existence of cultural remains.

The railroad easement that defines the southern boundary represents a corridor of highly disturbed land from which archeological resources cannot be expected to have survived. The right-of-way also serves to mark a sharp break in slope, delineating the well-drained alluvial terrace which lies on the inside bend of the river from the steep (greater than 15%), rocky, till covered northerly facing slope. The topographic characteristics beyond the easement would have rendered this area unattractive for occupation.

Case 5. Documents and Lack of Land Disturbance of a Historical Archeological Site in an Urban Setting: An eighteenth-century house in a Colonial-era town has been nominated. The townhouse is located on a deep lot maintained as lawn and gardens. Historical research confirms that the current property lines were established in the original plat of the block in the 1700s and that substantial construction has never occurred. Archeological investigation of other houses in the urban area has revealed the presence of associated buried privies and trash deposits.

Discussion: Historic documentation of legal boundaries would be the most appropriate in this case where the documentation confirms that current property lines represent the historic property lines. In addition, the lack of interior block disturbance is documented, leading to an expectation of buried feature remains such as privies. This expectation may be confirmed by surface observation of site features and materials. Subsurface testing would not be necessary for boundary definition in this case. Modern legal boundaries should be used in concert with historic documentation which confirms that the current legal boundaries are historically the legal boundaries of the site.

Map of Charcoal Iron Furnace
Figure 5. (Case 6). This figure shows a typical charcoal iron furnace dating from the nineteenth century. As part of a multiple property nomination, the boundary of each complex was estimated based upon historical cartographic documentation and confirmed using limited field investigations.
Case 6. Documents and Lack of Land Disturbance for a Multiple Property Nomination for Charcoal Iron Furnaces: Numerous charcoal iron furnace complexes and associated communities have been identified. All known examples of this class of property are included. Although predominantly subsurface in nature, a few aboveground resources are present. Archival research and intensive restoration of one of the furnace complexes have established a description of the types and functions of the resources represented, their time range, their physical characteristics, and the probable classes of important research data represented. Original plats for individual furnace complexes and communities as well as historic photographs are available. Limited archeological surveys have confirmed the presence of historically documented features at several of the furnace sites and associated communities. Typically, the iron furnaces and associated communities have not been developed following their abandonment.
Boundary Description: For each furnace complex and associated community, the boundary is defined by the historical limits of the resource as illustrated in historic plat maps and verified as undisturbed based on field inspection (See Figure 5.)
Boundary Justification: Given that all members of this class of resources have been identified; that the original plats are available to establish boundaries; that archival research, restoration, and limited archeological research have established the types and functions of the various resources represented; and that the furnace sites are located in a region of the State that has experienced little development, it is appropriate to use historic documents (plats) to determine the boundaries of each property included in the nomination. Subsurface testing is not necessary for boundary justification, because enough is known about the site functions and features to accurately predict locations of activity loci and expected data classes. Limited surface reconnaissance on several properties and restoration of one furnace and auxiliary building have confirmed the presence of expected features, based on historic documentation. Visible signature features, such as furnace stack remnants, earthen ramps, slag dumps, ore pits, and building foundations in conjunction with plats, historic photographs, and standing buildings have been useful in locating specific features, i.e., stacks are located near streams and sandstone banks, but are generally not useful in establishing boundaries. Later land alterations are virtually nonexistent or have had minimal impact on the properties in question. In sum, use of historic documentation (plats), in conjunction with visits to each of the sites to confirm expectations regarding integrity, is considered appropriate to define boundaries for each of the properties included in the multiple property nomination.

Map of site with Modern Property Lines
Figure 6. (Case 7). In this example, the eastern boundary of this prehistoric site was estimated, because access was denied to this portion of the property. The figure illustrates the polygons used to calculate the UTM coordinates for the nomination, while the actual boundaries are shown on the west side of the parcel.
Case 7. Use of Legal Boundary for a Site Divided by Modern Property Lines: A prehistoric site has been discovered as the result of a cultural resource survey in preparation for a construction project on part of parcel A. It is clear that the site extends beyond the construction project limits onto parcel B. The developers involved and their archeological contractors have been unable to gain the adjacent private owner's consent to survey parcel B in the area of the site for the purpose of boundary definition. Investigations of the site area within parcel A establish that the site, as it exists within parcel A, meets National Register criteria.

The SHPO or other nomination sponsor would be expected to make every effort to identify the totality of the property prior to nomination, so that the nomination reflects the entire resource. However, if examination of the part of the site on parcel B has been legally prohibited, and if there is no other basis for a well-justified estimation of the boundaries of the entire site, and, what is most important, if the portion of the site within parcel A was clearly eligible on its own, then the known portion of the site could be nominated.

Discussion: Where direct documentation of boundaries is not possible, and natural and topographic conditions do not help demarcate a site, legal boundaries may be used to define boundaries. In this case, the lot line shared by parcels A and B will form the defined eastern boundary. (See Figure 6.)

Case 8. Use of Documents for a Partially Inundated Historic Fortification: Archeological investigations were conducted at an early nineteenth-century coastal fortification along the eastern United States. Although the aboveground elements of the fort were determined not to meet National Register criteria due to renovations in the twentieth-century, the subsurface remains of the facility contained unique deposits representing the military occupation of the site. Significantly, deep testing confirmed that a portion of the "old tabia[sic.] barracks and magazine" had been buried by up to nine feet of sand. Other tabby foundations (tabby is a cement-like construction material) were observed eroding out of the adjacent beach area. These discoveries reinforced historical and cartographic research that suggested portions of the early nineteenth-century fort remained buried within periodically inundated areas of the coastline.

Discussion: The northern, western, and eastern boundaries of the property were defined as the current legal bounds of the military property. The area surrounding the fort that may have contained archeological remains has been heavily disturbed through subsequent residential development. The southern boundary along the coastline was interpreted from historical maps as extending approximately 150 feet into the adjacent river. These boundaries contain the documented extent of the fortifications.

Case 9. The Use of Documents for the Site of an Eighteenth-Century Settlement: The irregularly shaped site marks the remains of an eighteenth-century settlement situated on a high bluff on the west bank of a river. This area is presently in planted pines, mixed forest, and abandoned pecan orchards. The site was located on the basis of documentary and map information as well as by archeological data obtained in sampling excavations carried out there in 1974 and 1977 by the State University.

Boundary Description: The site is bounded on the west side by a railway line for a distance of about 1500 feet. The north and south boundaries turn eastward from either end of this boundary line. The northern boundary runs eastward 700 feet, turns southward for 450 feet, and continues 2,700 feet eastward to the western edge of the river. The southern boundary runs eastward 1,300 feet, turns northward 450 feet, and continues eastward roughly 2,100 feet to the western edge of the river. A line along the western edge of the river forms the eastern boundary of the site.

Boundary Justification: The boundaries of the settlement were defined by comparing the configuration of modern roads with those shown on early maps of the region. Based on this information, archeological sampling was conducted to ascertain the location and spatial limits of the past settlement. The results of these excavations were employed to extrapolate the overall distributions of structural and specialized activity artifacts. These distributions revealed that the early settlement lay along both sides of an abandoned road running westward from the river landing and along either side of a north-south road intersecting it about 1,000 feet from the riverbank. These distributions reflect the linear layout of the site indicated in comparative documents relating to contemporary settlements of similar function and corroborate the scanty documentation for the settlement of the site itself.

The western, northern, and southern boundaries of the site are defined by the gradual thinning out of artifacts in the area. The western boundary is also demarcated by the railroad, the construction of which destroyed archeological evidence in its immediate vicinity. The northern and southern boundaries of the site near the river are also defined by the presence of two deep gullies and a slough; the steep slopes of which mark the end of the occupied area. A road cut through the bluff indicates the actual landing site on the river. Presently, the western edge of the river was chosen as the eastern boundary due to the absence of underwater archeological investigation. Underwater components are commonly found in association with land sites situated along rivers in the State and the presence of such a component here is likely. If, as the result of an underwater survey, underwater components are discovered, the eastern boundary may be expanded.

Case 10. Property Type Model for a Deeply Buried Site: Prehistoric cultural material is discovered deeply buried in a floodplain. The materials have come from a depth of approximately 20 feet. Sufficient cultural material has been recovered through soil core testing to allow identification of the site's cultural/temporal affiliation. This appears to be an important multiuse site, and eligibility under the National Register criteria is firmly established.

Discussion: Subsurface testing is the preferred approach, but it is considered infeasible in this case for technological reasons. Natural topographic features may be used to define the site limits, however, completely different topography may have existed when the buried level was the ground surface. The effort required to test a site at such depth exceeds the technology commonly available in a survey program. Therefore, the site was listed with reasonable boundaries. The basis of the property type model (i.e., analogy to a known site, etc.) should be thoroughly explained in the nomination. The implications of using such a method include the probable inclusion of areas lacking significant site remains, as well as the exclusion of actual site areas. Where accurate boundaries cannot be confirmed, a property type model should be used to outline a reasonable boundary believed big enough to include the entire site.

Map of Large NR District
Figure 7. (Case 11). The border of this multicomponent district was established based on the distribution of known archeological sites.
Case 11. A Large National Register District: The 650-acre district is a multicomponent locality displaying at least two discrete occupations. The earlier occupation is represented by a series of Pueblo II (ca. 10th-11th century, A.D.) residential sites and associated special-use localities (field houses, lithic quarries). The later occupation (early 20th century) is centered around a limestone quarry and kiln at the southwest corner of the district. Associated with this limekiln is a concentration of Navajo hogans, probably occupied by workers at the mine. The sites are scattered around the periphery of the valley floor used for agricultural purposes by the Puebloan occupants.

Boundary Description: Starting at a point (area of Point A) on the 35-36 section line, 1,500 feet south of the marked corner of sections 25, 26, 35, and 36, the boundary trends east about 200 feet, then south for a chord distance of approximately 2,700 feet, crossing an unimproved road, to the area of Point B. From there, the boundary trends southwest, following the edge of the canyon, approximately 9,200 feet (chord distance) to where the boundary intersects the section 10-11 line, in the area of Point C. From there, the boundary trends west-southwest for approximately 1,500 feet (area of Point D), then north and northeast approximately 3,000 feet to Point E (crossing the canyon and two unimproved roads). From Point E, the boundary trends northeast, again following the edge of the canyon for about 4,400 feet to the area of Point F. From there, the boundary continues northeast, with a southeastward curve, for a chord distance of 5,600 feet to the point of beginning (area of Point A-See Figure 7.)

Boundary Justification: The external boundary is based on the known distribution of individual cultural properties. The boundary includes all culturally and behaviorally related sites associated with the Pueblo II and early twentieth-century limekiln settlements located within the geographically defined canyon. The two separate areas of significance are considered as one district because the property distributions overlap in the southwestern area of the district, with the additional acreage necessary to include the entire limekiln complex being minimal compared to the overall district size. Within the boundary is the alluvial valley used for agricultural purposes by the Puebloan occupants. The valley floor has been included because it contains the agricultural land that made settlement here possible. Although surface inspection revealed few visible cultural resources, aerial surveys may reveal buried agricultural features in this valley. In this particular case, the valley floor is included within the district without evidence of archeological materials due to the small scale of the district and the dispersal of sites within the district around the valley. However, for larger districts, evidence of agricultural use, such as the presence of vegetable pollen, would be necessary to justify the inclusion of the valley floor within the boundaries of the district. In the absence of such evidence, the boundaries would be drawn to exclude the valley floor from the center of the district or become a discontiguous one.

Map of Archeological site and traditional cultural property
Figure 8. (Case 12). This nomination from a western state included aerial photographs to illustrate site boundaries. A transparency with the site boundary indicated was overlaid on the photo to show the extent of this site. The site also included elements of a traditional cultural property. The boundaries of this site were determined through archeological and ethnographic survey.
Case 12. Archeological Site and Traditional Cultural Property. This nomination describes three archeological sites found within a cultural landscape important to a Native American group in a western state. The property includes about 5 acres of an adjacent river, which was used in traditional subsistence practices. Archeological components include a village midden area with a depth of about 2 feet, while the landscape features include rocks, a grove of trees, and a waterfall. Within this site there is significant linkage between archeological record and traditional cultural features. The site was determined eligible under criteria A and D.

The limits of the archeological sites and cultural landscape were defined using a combination of direct documentation (ethnographic and archeological studies) with topographic setting. The boundaries for this site were documented both by a series of maps and an aerial photograph, each showing the limits of the property Boundary Description: The boundary is indicated on the map accompanying the nomination. (See Figure 8.)

Boundary Justification: The property is situated on a 40-acre river terrace and that portion of the river directly adjacent to the terrace. The property is bounded on the north by the mountainous slope rising from the terrace. The river channel which loops around the terrace forms the eastern and southern boundary. The western boundary is defined by a relatively steep slope rising up from the terrace. The boundaries encompass the resources and their immediate setting.

Case 13. Boundary Reduction of a Large National Register District. Listed on the National Register in the early 1970s, a large district in a northwestern state contained over 400 archeological sites across more than 400,000 acres. Sites within the district represented all periods of human occupation in North America, from Paleoindian through the early twentieth century. Only 10 percent of the entire district had been the subject of archeological investigations at any level. Site distribution in the district appears to have been influenced by a variety of environmental factors, including topographic and hydrological setting. Most of the recorded sites are wholly on the ground surface or are shallowly buried, while many of the sites are threatened by natural forces (wind and water erosion) and degradation by human activities.

Discussion: After 20 years of archeological studies, the district's boundaries were reduced in the early 1990s by 50 percent in order to more accurately reflect the distribution of known sites and areas with high probability to contain additional important sites. A very few of the previously identified sites were excluded from the revised boundaries, now totaling over 200,000 acres. Excluded from the district were areas with the highest elevations and slopes greater than 20 percent that were unlikely to contain any archeological sites. Revision of the boundaries also removed unnecessary "buffer" areas from the district. Because of the large size of the district and the amount of new archeological information, a completely new nomination was prepared rather than a simple amendment to the existing nomination.

Map of continuous artifact distribution
Figure 9. (Case 14). Numerous circles on this figure illustrate the location of recorded archeological sites located on this broad floodplain area. The National Register property is shown by the rectangle, which encompasses four known sites. A reasonable boundary was assigned to this property.
Case 14. Continuous Artifact Distribution: Multiple Prehistoric Sites Located on a Flood Plain: The flood plain of the river is a broad, flat plain with little topographic relief. The known distribution of prehistoric sites located in the floodplain derives principally from the mapping of numerous artifact collecting areas, representing the past 30 years of surface collection activities by numerous individuals. To date, there has been no systematic subsurface testing survey of the floodplain, chiefly due to the presence of deep alluvium deposits which prohibit cost-effective testing. Many of the artifact collecting areas overlap and indicate an almost continuous pattern of prehistoric land use on the homogeneous floodplain (See Figure 9.)

Assignment of a polygonal boundary is appropriate in this case, since it encompasses the area of a known Late Woodland-Contact Period Settlement within a broad, featureless expanse generally known for its almost continuous distribution of prehistoric cultural remains. The polygonal area may be replaced by more precise site boundaries as site formation processes and improvements in archeological methodology provide further data regarding the floodplain's prehistoric land use.

Boundary Description: The boundaries of the site are defined by a polygon. The polygon is square, measuring 500 meters on a side, covering 25 hectares. The boundaries of the site are defined by UTM coordinates which mark a polygon's corners. The unit includes land in private ownership on a bend of broad floodplain of the river in an area known for its very high density of sites, as evidenced by overlapping artifact areas.

Boundary Justification: The nominated area (geographic) of the floodplain includes the majority of four known collecting areas. The artifacts and features within the polygonal area demonstrate the presence of Late Woodland and Contact Period occupations, on which the statement of significance is based. Through a series of fortunate events surrounding a recent flooding episode of the river, the archeological remains of a large Late Woodland-Contact Period village were exposed in this area of the floodplain. The exposed domestic features and artifact concentrations were carefully recorded by amateur archeologists, but only within the areas fortuitously stripped of alluvium by the flood. Subsequently, the property owner intentionally refilled this area, thus recreating a deep, featureless plain. Without intensive archeological testing below the 1-3 meters of alluvium and fill above the prehistoric occupation zone, it is impossible to define the site boundaries on the basis of presence or absence of cultural materials. In fact, by comparison to the east bank of the river, which has been more intensively surface collected, it appears that the distribution of prehistoric cultural materials is almost continuous across miles of land.


3 maps of continuous artifact distribution


Figure 10. (Case 15). The boundary of this archeological site was determined by the density of artifacts found through extensive testing of the area. Although numerous concentrations of artifacts (lithics, shell remains, and fire-cracked rock) are shown across the hillside overlooking a marsh and cove, the National Register boundary for this site includes the largest area of artifact distribution.

Case 15. Continuous Artifact Distribution: Prehistoric Camp Site Overlooking an Estuary: The site is located on a prominent hill on the western side of the mouth of a cove overlooking the southern half of a marsh. Concentrations were delimited all along the base of the hill (the base is at approximately the same location as the abandoned road shown as a dashed line on Figure 10). Concentrations also occur on its eastern and northeastern slopes, both of which include sizable areas that are nearly level. The site is in mainly open fields at present with thick shrubs in wet areas, scattered evergreens, and broad leafed forest undergrowth vegetation.

Two kinds of test units-shovel tests and excavation units-were used to define the site boundary and concentrations within the site. The density per .25 cubic meters of the number of lithics, grams of shell, and fire-cracked rock were calculated for each unit and mapped. Density contour lines using the median and 75th percentile values were drawn on large scale maps for each of the site areas. These lines were used as boundaries between site and non-site areas and among concentrations within the site.

Boundary Description: The site is bounded by the marsh on the south and east, and by the density of artifact distributions (boundary established at the 75th percentile isopleth) on the north and the west.

Boundary Justification: An essential step for analyzing archeological remains on a regional basis is the careful identification of comparable units. This example establishes such units by using an explicit definition of two concepts-the site and the concentration. "Site" as used here refers to a bounded area within which artifact concentrations occur. Site boundaries were set along contour lines of artifact density, interpolated from shovel test and excavation unit data. In this context, sites are areas that contained concentration of artifact deposits. These concentrations represent areas bounded by contour lines representing a certain density within the site of one or more kinds of archeological materials e.g., lithics, shell or fire-cracked rock remains. The size, structure, shape, and contents, as well as other characteristics of each concentration, can then be investigated.


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Dancey, William S. 1981 Archaeological Field Methods: An Introduction. Burgess Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Dunnell, R. and W. Dancey 1983 The Siteless Survey: A Regional Scale Data Collection Strategy. In Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 5. Edited by M. B. Schiffer. pp. 267-287. Academic Press, New York.

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Henry, Susan L. 1993 Protecting Archeological Sites on Private Lands. National Park Service, Washington, DC.

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Townsend, Jan, John H. Sprinkle, Jr., and John Knoerl. National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Historical Archeological Sites and Districts. Washington, D.C.: National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1993.

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