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The Archeological Survey: Methods and Uses






Introduction and Definitions

A Brief History of Archeological Survey

The Variety of Archeological Survey

Basic Archeological Site Survey Methods

Special Types of Survey

Recording and Reporting

Predictive Survey for Comprehensive Planning



Forms Used in Recording Archeological Survey Data

Archeological Predictive Studies

Example of an Archeological Review Procedure Using Predictive Data

Automated Management of Data and Research Results on Archeological Surveys

State Archeological Co-ops: Their Evolution, Dangers, and Value

The Archeological Survey: Methods and Uses
U.S. Dept. of the Interior


This volume is addressed to two major audiences. One is the audience of State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Federal agency planners and administrators, and other nonarcheologists who sometimes express confusion or uncertainty about what archeological survey is and what it means to them. The other audience is the archeological profession itself. To the latter audience we will be saying nothing new; we will be discussing things that everybody knows but for some reason seldom writes about. The volume may serve an archeological purpose by saying these things, as simply as possible, in a single slender volume. To the former audience we will try to convey, in reasonably plain language, the process and problems of archeological surveying. At minimum they should be able to ask better questions about the process of identifying archeological sites.

Archeological surveys are obviously necessary in order to identify those archeological properties that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. SHPOs have a lead responsibility for the conduct of surveys, under the authority of section 102 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Because SHPOs have lacked the funds to undertake such surveys with much dispatch during the decade since passage of the act, however, the great majority of the nation's lands remain unsurveyed. When a Federal agency proposes to undertake a project, or assist or permit another party to undertake a project that will disturb such unsurveyed lands, it thus cannot usually receive much help from the SHPO. The agency then has no choice but to conduct a survey itself in order to obtain the data it needs for compliance with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and other authorities. Basic guidelines for archeological surveys, as one aspect of general historic properties surveys, will soon be published in the "Federal Register". These guidelines naturally sacrifice detail for legal precision and broad applicability. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate upon the guidelines.

We have decided to use the term "archeological site" throughout this volume to refer to the object of archeological survey. This is an imprecise term, which in other contexts we have tried to avoid (36 CFR 66, and King, Hickman and Berg 1977). Archeologists are concerned not only with sites but with buildings and structures, as well as objects and districts--the whole range of historic properties as defined by the National Historic Preservation Act. This concern is briefly discussed in Chapter V. We have used "site" here for two reasons: first, because we felt that a more general term like "historic property" would confuse some readers in the absence of a lengthy discourse on why we were using it, and second, because in conducting a survey it is the search for non-structural sites that causes the most trouble to SHPO's and Federal agencies, not the identification of buildings and structures. At the same time, archeologists often have trouble dealing with the information content of buildings and structures, but that is a different issue. An archeological site, then, for purposes of this paper, is any location--on or in the ground and with or without buildings, structures, or other protuberances, that may contain information important to history or prehistory--i.e., that meets National Register Criterion 4 (36 CFR 60.6). Archeological survey involves seeking such locations and finding out enough about them to decide whether they really do contain important information. This is not necessarily a difficult activity, but it can be a time consuming one. Occasionally it is a dangerous one, sometimes it is an expensive one and, most of all, it is a practice that requires thoughtful planning and organization. These are the primary topics of this volume.

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