Director's Order graphic



A. Introduction and Objectives

Archeological resources occur in virtually every unit of the national park system. They are critical to understanding and interpreting American prehistory and history. They include prehistoric and historic period sites, materials found in museum collections, and the records associated with these sites and materials. They are often fragile and may be easily destroyed unless proper attention is paid to their management.

The management of archeological resources on park lands is mandated by law and policy. Of particular importance are the laws and regulations that specifically apply to the National Park Service, the NPS Management Policies, the Antiquities Act of 1906, Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and their respective implementing regulations, standards, and guidelines. A brief overview of these acts and other applicable laws and regulations can be found in Appendix B of this guideline.

This chapter provides guidance and standards for the management of archeological resources. The park superintendent is responsible for implementing and coordinating activities that affect these resources. He or she does this in consultation with archeologists and other specialists involved in planning, construction, and compliance at the park, support office, and NPS centers.

1. Types of Archeological Resources

Archeological resources are the physical evidences of past human activity, including evidences of the effects of that activity on the environment. What makes archeological resources significant are their identity, age, location, and context in conjunction with their capacity to reveal information through the investigatory research designs, methods, and techniques used by archeologists.

Archeological resources represent both prehistoric and historic time periods. They are found above and below ground and under water. Examples of prehistoric archeological resources include cliff dwellings, Indian mounds, petroglyphs, surface scatters of pottery fragments and chipped stone, campsites, and villages. Examples of historic archeological resources include archeological components of historic structures, battlefields, mining camps, forts, shipwrecks, and similar historic properties. A historic period house, for example, may have a broad variety of material culture associated with it (e.g., in construction trenches and trash pits) that can be examined effectively using archeological techniques. The remains of historic properties or of resource types not typically included in the historical record will have archeological value when they can reveal significant information. Examples of submerged archeological resources include sunken ships and aircraft and inundated prehistoric campsites and historic forts. The requirements to manage submerged resources are the same as for terrestrial resources.

Archeological remains in collections and the records that document them and their associated sites are also considered archeological resources and must be managed accordingly.

2. Program Objectives

Park managers are responsible for ensuring that archeological resources under their jurisdiction are identified, protected, preserved, and interpreted. This is done through a systematic program of inventory, evaluation, documentation, curation of collections and associated records, nomination of eligible resources to the National Register of Historic Places, monitoring, protection, treatment, and interpretation.

The NPS's systemwide archeological inventory program aims to locate, evaluate, and document archeological resources on park lands. Archeological inventories of parks are planned, programmed, funded, and conducted in accordance with each park cluster's archeological inventory plan and the requirements, standards, and priorities of the systemwide archeological inventory program. At a minimum, archeological overviews and assessments covering all park areas are required. Most parks will also require additional studies and activities as specified in the publication National Park Service's Systemwide Archeological Inventory Program (October 1992). Project statements for needed archeological identification and evaluation studies and related activities are included in a park's resources management plan. The RMP includes project statements for other studies and activities needed to preserve archeological resources. Such studies and activities will often include periodic monitoring of sites subject to damage from natural processes (e.g., floods and erosion) and human activities (e.g., looting and vandalism); stabilization of damaged or threatened sites; and data recovery for research or interpretive purposes, for documentation purposes in advance of site stabilization or other preservation treatments, or for mitigation of adverse impacts.

Some parks have staff archeologists to provide direct support in achieving program objectives. Most parks must obtain this support from archeologists in support offices or archeological or preservation centers.


  • Archeological research in a park is conducted in accordance with applicable NPS policies, guidelines, and standards. (They include the NPS Management Policies and this guideline; Director's Order 26, "Projects Must Fund Basic Preservation of Museum Collections They Generate"; the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation; the NPS's Guidelines for Federal Agency Responsibilities Under Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act; the NPS's Systemwide Archeological Inventory Program requirements, standards, and priorities; and the NPS Technical Manual for Archeological Permits.)

  • Park archeological resources are left in situ and undisturbed, unless removal of artifacts or intervention into cultural material is justified in the planning process by preservation treatment, protection, research, interpretation, or development requirements. They are preserved in a stable condition to prevent degradation and loss of research values or in situ exhibit potential.

  • Park archeological resources are inventoried through systematic surveys and evaluated using the National Register criteria. Resources are placed within historical contexts using the National Park Service's Thematic Framework (1996); complementary state, regional, and park contexts; and relevant preservation plans. Resource contexts are correlated with NPS objectives for management, interpretation, and regional planning.

  • Information about a park's archeological resources is compiled and maintained in the archeological component of the Cultural Sites Inventory (CSI). Required data are entered into the archeological sites management information database. When appropriate, archeological resources information is referenced in the List of Classified Structures, the Cultural Landscapes Inventory, the Cultural Resources Management Bibliography, the National Maritime Initiative Inventory, geographic information systems, and other databases.

  • A park's eligible archeological resources are nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Site information is provided to the state historic preservation officer (SHPO), state archeologist, state underwater archeologist, and state archeological clearinghouse official. Information on the location, character, or ownership of archeological resources whose public disclosure would risk harm to the resources is kept confidential.

  • A park's general management plan, development concept plan(s), environmental impact statements, environmental assessments, and other planning documents describe the effects of proposed development, park operations, natural processes, and human activities on archeological resources. They also include explanations in support of decisions to preserve, stabilize, recover, avoid, destroy, monitor, and otherwise treat threatened resources.

  • An archeological overview and assessment covering the park is completed. The park's resources management plan includes project statements for other archeological studies and site-specific action plans needed to identify, evaluate, document, nominate, monitor, study, interpret, preserve, stabilize, recover, protect, and otherwise treat archeological resources. These studies and plans are programmed and undertaken in priority order.

  • The effects of natural processes and human activities on archeological resources are assessed and documented. A schedule to monitor the condition of affected resources is established and implemented.

  • Significant archeological and other scientific data threatened with loss from the effects of natural processes, human activities, preservation treatments, park operations, and development activities are recovered, recorded, or otherwise preserved.

  • Adequate information about archeological resources is gathered, compiled, and analyzed before initiating or revising park planning documents. When additional information is needed, the required archeological studies are programmed, funded, and executed at least two years before the planning project is scheduled to begin.

  • Archeologists review and assess all proposed undertakings that could affect archeological resources to ensure that all feasible measures are taken to avoid resources, minimize damage to them, or recover data that otherwise would be lost. Assessments are documented in environmental impact statements, environmental assessments, general management plans, development concept plans, archeological clearance forms, and other planning and compliance documentation.

  • Park development, park operations, preservation treatments, and other actions affecting archeological resources are initiated only upon completion of all required consultation and legal compliance requirements and only when supported by approved proposals, task directives, plans, or reports.

  • Archeological reports, studies, and other documentation meet planning and management needs and conform to NPS and professional standards before projects are certified as completed.

  • Interpretation of archeological resources is accurate, current, relevant to park themes, and consistent with resource preservation needs.

  • Archeologists who conduct research on park lands, whether employed by the government or working under contract or permit, meet the professional qualification standards in Appendix E of this guideline. Contracts for archeological research contain personnel qualification information and other data required for permits under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and/or the Antiquities Act.

  • The full sequence of necessary activities is planned, programmed, and undertaken in archeological research studies. (This generally includes consulting and coordinating activities with NPS and non-NPS parties; preparing work plans or research designs; undertaking needed background research and related activities; conducting the research; recording and analyzing data; preparing interim and final archeological reports; updating base maps; entering data into Service-wide inventories, lists, catalogs, and databases; cataloging, stabilizing, and preparing any collections for storage; preparing National Register nominations for eligible resources; and making research results available to park managers, planners, interpreters, other NPS specialists, the professional community, and the public.)

  • The full range of anticipated in-house and other expenses are included in cost estimates and are programmed for archeological research. (This generally includes expenses relating to personnel [e.g., NPS employees, contractors, consultants, peer reviewers]; travel and per diem; equipment purchases and leases, maintenance, and repair; supplies and materials; special data acquisition [e.g., purchase of existing remote-sensed or digitized data]; special studies [e.g., pollen analysis, radiocarbon dating, artifact stabilization]; office, laboratory, and storage space; publication costs [e.g., scientific reports and books, non-technical books, and pamphlets]; attendance at professional meetings; public outreach activities; and overhead costs.)

  • Requests to search for or acquire treasure-trove conform to the provisions of "Policies and Procedures for Handling Requests to Search for Treasure Trove" (Special Directive 90-1).

B. Research

Archeological research in the parks is done to support management, protection, understanding, and interpretation of archeological resources. Archeological research typically involves defining theoretical orientation and methodological approaches, identifying and evaluating resources, describing field work, analyzing and synthesizing data recovered, professionally reporting and interpreting results, and conserving data, associated records, and materials. Research may employ nondestructive and destructive methods and may include field surveys, data recovery, and interdisciplinary studies like archival research, geomorphological studies, palynological studies, oral histories, ethnohistories, and analysis of extant collections. Research is conducted by qualified individuals from the NPS, other government agencies, contractors, educational and scientific institutions, and other organizations.

1. Project Development

a. Work Plans and Research Designs

A work plan (sometimes called a scope of work) will be prepared for all archeological research whether conducted by NPS staff or under a contract, permit, or interagency or cooperative agreement. The work plan will set forth the scope, objectives, methods, schedule, and budget for the proposed project. It must be sufficiently detailed to allow for technical and administrative review by cultural resource specialists.

The work plan may be replaced by a more detailed research design, which will describe and assess prior research, state the purpose and goals of the research, present research questions to be addressed, explain strategies and methods of data acquisition, state the disposition of recovered materials and associated records, indicate the nature and delivery dates of expected reports, and contain a project schedule, level of effort statement, and budget. The detail in a research design should be proportionate to the scope of the project.

In general, a work plan is prepared for small, brief archeological clearances related to development or park operations, while a more detailed research design is prepared for larger, multi-year archeological studies. In any case, final reports for all archeological studies should include a discussion of the project's work plan or research design.

b. Permit Requirements

Any research proposal that has the potential to affect archeological resources must be reviewed by an NPS archeologist. If required, the researcher must apply for archeological and/or special use permits, and needed consultations must be undertaken. Non-government researchers must apply for a permit before conducting any research that may affect park archeological resources. Applications for Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and/or Antiquities Act permits will be processed in accordance with the requirements of 43 CFR Part 7, Protection of Archaeological Resources; 43 CFR Part 3, Preservation of American Antiquities; and the NPS Technical Manual for Archeological Permits. Applications for special use permits will be processed in accordance with the requirements of the Special Park Uses Guideline (NPS-53). Other park-specific special use permits may be required. Special use permits cannot be used in lieu of ARPA and/or Antiquities Act permits.

Archeological research conducted by NPS staff, contractors, or parties under an interagency or cooperative agreement must be reviewed by an NPS archeologist and meet ARPA and/or Antiquities Act permit requirements. Documentation showing that the permit requirements are met is contained in the work plan, research design, contract, or interagency or cooperative agreement. Any terms and conditions also are stipulated. The work plan, research design, contract, or interagency or cooperative agreement constitutes the permit in lieu of a separate ARPA and/or Antiquities Act permit.

c. Consultation Requirements

The NPS will consult with appropriate SHPOs and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, in accordance with the terms of the Servicewide Programmatic Agreement or any project-specific memorandum of agreement, in advance of any undertaking that may affect archeological resources. (For further information see Chapter 5 of this guideline.)

Research that may affect sites of religious or other cultural importance to an Indian tribe or other Native American group must also be preceded by notification of and consultation with that group. Notification and consultation will conform to NPS ethnographic program policies and meet the requirements of ARPA; 43 CFR Part 7, Protection of Archaeological Resources; the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA); and 43 CFR Part 10, NAGPRA Regulations. NPS archeologists, in coordination with NPS ethnographers, curators, and park superintendents, are responsible for ensuring that archeological research on park lands is in compliance with these policies and requirements.

The consultation process requires close cooperation and coordination among park superintendents and NPS archeologists, ethnographers, and curators to ensure that the NPS speaks with a single voice to culturally affiliated groups. Agreements reached in the consultation process are documented in writing. This is particularly important where there is potential to encounter Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony during the archeological research. It is recommended that agreements also address the treatment and disposition of inadvertent discoveries of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. (For further information see Chapter 10 of this guideline.)

2. Identification and Evaluation

a. Systemwide Archeological Inventory Program

The systemwide archeological inventory program is a long-term, systematic research effort to locate, evaluate, and document archeological resources in national park system areas. It seeks to determine the nature and extent of archeological resources in park areas; to record and evaluate them and nominate those eligible to the National Register; and to recommend appropriate strategies for conserving, protecting, preserving in situ, managing, and interpreting those resources.

In addition to setting minimum requirements, standards, and priorities applicable to all NPS regions, the program is tailored to each park cluster through development and implementation of a cluster-wide archeological inventory plan. Each cluster documents its progress in meeting targeted goals in annual reports. The program augments existing archeological policies, guidelines, and standards. (For further information see the National Park Service's Systemwide Archeological Inventory Program publication.)

b. Cluster-wide Archeological Inventory Plan

Cluster-wide archeological inventory plans describe and assess the status of archeological inventories in the cluster's parks and establish long-term strategies and priorities for conducting archeological inventories. Each cluster's plan identifies and describes the cluster's parks; provides an overview of the area's prehistory, history, and status of archeological research; discusses the nature and extent of prior archeological activities in the parks; establishes cluster-wide strategies to locate, identify, evaluate, and document archeological resources; describes the proposed archeological inventory projects; lists the proposed projects in priority order; and provides cost estimates for each project.

c. Archeological Overview and Assessment

An archeological overview and assessment is the basic element of a park's archeological resources management program. It is an archeological research report produced for a park and the first step in determining the requirements for additional archeological research. Based on a thorough examination of existing records, documents, and reports, the overview and assessment describes and evaluates the known and potential archeological resources in an area and identifies the need for additional field surveys to locate, evaluate, and document resources.

The overview and assessment describes the area's environment and culture history; lists, describes, and evaluates its known archeological resources; describes the potential for as-yet-unidentified archeological resources; describes and evaluates past research in the area or region; outlines relevant research topics; and provides recommendations for future research. It lists the location of collections of archeological materials and associated records related to park resources and contains a comprehensive bibliography. Upon completion of the overview and assessment, the park's base map should be updated to show the locations of sites. Maps should show all areas within the park that have been surveyed for archeological resources and indicate the levels of surveys used.

Each park will have an archeological overview and assessment, which will be programmed and prepared as soon as possible after the park is established. If it is not completed before preparation of the park's resources management plan, it will be scheduled as a priority project in the cultural resources component of that plan. Whenever possible, the overview and assessment will be completed before initiating the park's general management plan, development concept plan(s), land protection plan, and interpretive prospectus. If it is not completed by that time, it must be programmed as a component of one of these park planning activities and completed before approval of the plan. If the overview and assessment indicates that information is inadequate for management of the park's archeological resources, archeological identification and evaluation studies will be designed, programmed, and conducted. The overview and assessment should be reviewed periodically and updated as necessary.

d. Archeological Identification Study

An archeological identification study locates archeological resources and describes their characteristics, potential scientific value, and threats to their integrity and condition. It may cover all or part of a park and may address all or some resource types. It also may cover all or part of several parks, especially parks that are close to one another or share the same culture history. Identification studies will be completed for all parks that lack them or for which prior studies are inadequate.

Each identification study is designed to meet the specific needs of a park. Reconnaissance-level surveys will collect sufficient data on archeological resources to describe their distribution and general characteristics and estimate their scientific values. Intensive-level surveys will collect and analyze sufficient data so that the location, characteristics, scientific values, and condition of archeological resources and threats to them can be determined.

The results of reconnaissance-level surveys, in conjunction with the archeological overview and assessment, usually are sufficient to support preparation of a general management plan. Study at the intensive level is required before initiating a development concept plan and designing approved construction projects. Depending on the nature of a proposed development, it may be necessary to conduct more intensive archeological identification studies in areas previously surveyed at a less intensive, reconnaissance level. An archeological evaluation study (see below) may also be required to ensure that an adequate information base is available before development planning or construction design is initiated.

Where required, identification studies will be prescribed in each cluster-wide archeological inventory plan and in each park's archeological overview and assessment, general management plan, and resources management plan. Identification study reports will meet NPS and professional standards. Upon completion of identification studies, the park's archeological overview and assessment and base map will be updated.

e. Archeological Evaluation Study

Tailored to meet a park's specific needs, an archeological evaluation study assesses and documents the scientific value, integrity, condition, and National Register—eligibility of archeological resources and threats to them. Such studies must also precede planning for all proposed development projects, including projects not originally envisioned in a park's general management plan or development concept plan.

Surface collection and subsurface testing should be undertaken only to the extent needed to determine research potential for National Register eligibility or for other specified management purposes. A written evaluation report meeting NPS and professional standards will be produced. Because the evaluation study is closely linked to the identification study, it is often economical to combine them.

Needed evaluation studies will be prescribed in each cluster-wide archeological inventory plan and in the park's archeological overview and assessment, archeological identification study, general management plan, resources management plan, and other planning documents.

3. Archeological Databases

Information about archeological resources, associated data, and studies on park lands will be compiled and entered into park, cluster, and Service-wide databases (listed below) for planning and management purposes. When information about resources, associated data, and studies is entered into more than one database, they will be cross-referenced.

Field-generated Records (associated records). Raw data (e.g., forms, logs, photographs, notes, field maps) from archeological research will be kept in an accessible form with any associated artifacts and specimens at the appropriate park, support office, or archeological or preservation center repository. They must be accessioned and cataloged into the park's museum collection along with recovered archeological material. (See Chapter 9 of this guideline and the NPS Museum Handbook, Part II, Museum Records, Appendix D (1996), for guidance on accessioning, cataloging, and managing archival materials.)

Cultural Sites Inventory—Archeology (CSI-A). The CSI-A, the archeological component of the Service-wide Cultural Sites Inventory, is a documented inventory of known archeological resources on national park system lands. Documentation consists of paper records, reports, and associated photographic and electronic media relevant to archeological resources. It includes information about resource location, characteristics, description, research potential, significance, threats, and management, protection, and treatment requirements. The Service-wide archeological sites management information database, an element of the CSI-A, includes standardized data elements, required for park management purposes, that will be recorded for known archeological resources. It also sets forth standardized park-wide, cluster-wide, and Service-wide management reports.

Park Base Maps. Maps will be maintained showing all areas within a park that have been surveyed archeologically, the levels of survey employed, and the locations of all archeological resources found. Physiographic provinces, ecological zones, topographic features, and landscapes associated with archeological resources should be noted on base maps (see Chapter 2 of this guideline on historical base maps).

Cultural Landscapes Inventory (CLI). This is a computerized, evaluated inventory of landscapes having historical, ethnographic, or design significance (see Chapter 7 of this guideline). Archeological resources associated with cultural landscapes should be entered into the CLI.

List of Classified Structures (LCS). This is a computerized, evaluated inventory of prehistoric and historic structures (see Chapter 8 of this guideline). Archeological aspects of prehistoric and historic structures should be entered into the LCS.

Cultural Resources Management Bibliography (CRBIB). This is a computerized, multi-disciplinary listing of professional reports, books, articles, and other publications that address park cultural resources. Bibliographic information on final reports, books, articles, and other publications about archeological resources on park lands will be included in the CRBIB.

State-level Registration. Archeological information will be furnished to the SHPO for incorporation into the state's historic preservation planning and inventory programs. Official state site numbers for archeological resources on park lands will be included in CSI-A records and entered into the archeological sites management information database.

National Register of Historic Places. All archeological sites will be evaluated using the National Register criteria and, if they appear eligible, nominated to the Register.

National Catalog of Museum Objects. Archeological object catalog records listed in the Automated National Catalog System will include the official state site numbers.

National Maritime Initiative Inventory. This is an inventory of significant historic floating vessels, shipwrecks, hulks, and other maritime resources. Information about submerged or buried shipwrecks, hulks, and other maritime-related archeological resources in parks will be entered into this inventory.

National Archeological Database (NADB). This is a computerized database containing information about archeological resources. The reports component of NADB contains bibliographic citations of professional reports, books, articles, and other publications about archeological resources. Bibliographic information about final reports, books, articles, and other publications on archeological resources on park lands will be included in NADB.

4. Confidentiality of Information

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act provide authority, under certain circumstances, to withhold from the public information about the location, nature, and ownership of archeological resources. Such information can be withheld to protect the resources from vandalism, looting, and commercial exploitation, guard against invasions of privacy, and protect traditional religious uses of resources. State agencies furnished such information must maintain its confidentiality, as must researchers in the scholarly community and archeologists and compliance specialists doing environmental assessments. (For more detail see National Register Bulletin 29, Guidelines for Restricting Information about Historic and Prehistoric Resources.)

Under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, the public must be given adequate notice of the location of any shipwreck to which title is asserted under Section 6 of the act. This requirement applies to any abandoned shipwreck located within the national park system to which the federal government asserted title under the act, including any shipwreck whose title subsequently was transferred to a state. If disclosure of the exact location of a shipwreck in a park unit would lead to vandalism, pilferage, or other damage, locational information of only a general nature will be given. (For more information see the National Park Service's Abandoned Shipwreck Act Guidelines [55 FR 50116, Dec. 4, 1990; 55 FR 51528, Dec. 14, 1990; 56 FR 7875, Feb. 26, 1991].)

5. Archeological Data Recovery Studies

The NPS Management Policies provides that "archeological resources will be left undisturbed unless removal of artifacts or intervention into fabric is justified by protection, research, interpretive, or development requirements." Because it is preferable to preserve and protect archeological resources in situ, collection of detailed information about the location, characteristics, and scientific values of park archeological resources during archeological identification and evaluation studies is essential. Such data are needed to ensure that archeological resources concerns are addressed properly during the planning, design, and construction of park development projects to minimize the need for archeological data recovery.

If proposed park development will have an effect on archeological resources, Management Policies requires that "all reasonable measures to limit adverse effects will be taken, including recovery of data and salvage of materials, as appropriate." Such mitigation, usually stipulated during Section 106 compliance, provides for a data recovery project that involves data collection (excavation, documentation, and surface collection of artifacts), data analysis, report production, and preservation of recovered materials and associated records. Each mitigation project will be designed in consultation with the SHPO. It will recover the full range of significant archeological information that otherwise would be lost and will preserve in situ as much of the scientific research potential of the resource as is practicable.

Data recovery usually is called for when archeological resources are threatened with destruction from natural processes (e.g., volcanic eruptions, erosion, floods, wildlife, and subsidence) or by human activities (e.g., looting, vandalism, and oil spills).

6. Disposition of Archeological Collections

Archeological studies that include surface collection, subsurface testing, or other excavations result in the collection of archeological objects and specimens. These materials and associated records will be treated in accordance with NPS museum management program requirements and 36 CFR 79, Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archeological Collections. Archeological projects that include the recovery of archeological material will provide for cataloging objects, specimens, and associated records into the NPS's National Catalog of Museum Objects, and for cleaning, stabilizing, and preparing collections for storage. (See Chapter 9 of this guideline for details on NPS museum management program requirements and Chapter 10 for information on special concerns relating to collections that contain Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.)

C. Planning

1. Relationship to Park Planning Documents

Park management, operations, and development require production of a variety of planning documents. Projects and alternatives proposed in these documents frequently will have direct or indirect effects on archeological resources, requiring changes in the ways the resources are managed, preserved, or treated. Accordingly, archeologists should be included as team members or consultants during preparation of park planning documents. At a minimum, consultation with an archeologist is required at the earliest practicable stage for all planning documents and proposed projects, preferably during the scoping process.

a. General Management Plan

As part of the decision-making process leading to preparation (or revision) of a GMP, the park's archeological resources information base will be evaluated by an archeologist for adequacy, quality, and usefulness. Depending on the scope of the planning effort, it may be necessary to program and collect baseline information about the park's archeological resources. If the archeological overview and assessment indicates information is inadequate, archeological identification and evaluation studies may be needed at this time. For GMP planning that will address development or construction requirements, archeological surveys must be conducted in advance to provide information necessary to assess potential impacts to resources.

b. Resources Management Plan

Parks are required to have an archeological overview and assessment. If it does not exist or if it needs updating, a project statement for its completion should be included in the RMP. In addition, each park must inventory and evaluate, in consultation with the SHPO, its archeological resources. Each park should assess the overall adequacy of its archeological resources information base and include in its RMP proposals for inventory and evaluation studies to correct deficiencies. This normally involves programming for archeological identification and evaluation studies and preparation and submission of National Register nominations for eligible archeological resources. RMPs also should contain project statements for preservation and protection treatments needed at specific archeological sites or groups of sites. Such treatments generally would be called for at sites that have suffered from or are likely to be threatened by the destructive effects of natural processes or human activities not under the direct control of the NPS. Examples include programming for periodic monitoring and condition assessment, stabilization, and data recovery. In addition, RMPs identify park-based staff and fiscal resources needed to carry out the park's archeological resource management responsibilities.

c. Development Concept Plan

Development concept plans will be preceded by systematic archeological identification and evaluation studies to locate and evaluate all archeological resources in areas that could be affected directly or indirectly by planned construction and human activity. The studies should provide sufficient information to predict probable effects, plan for alternatives, and design any data recovery projects. It is important that these studies be accomplished early enough in the planning process to weigh findings in the selection of the final design and the location of facilities.

d. Interpretive Prospectus

Proposals to interpret a park's archeological resources are included in the park's interpretive prospectus. The interpretive prospectus identifies specific interpretive themes and objectives and contains recommendations on appropriate media. If additional archeological research is needed for interpretive purposes, it should be identified in the interpretive prospectus and programmed in the resources management plan. It is important that the results of archeological studies be made available to park interpreters, interpretive planners, and exhibit designers. Details on the need to withhold from the public any specific information about archeological resources should be provided so that confidential information will not be released. (For further information see the Interpretation and Visitor Services Guideline [NPS-6].)

e. Other Park Plans

Because fire management, disaster control, law enforcement, visitor use, paleontological research, cave management, agricultural leasing, and other activities may adversely affect archeological resources, other park plans should reflect consideration of these factors. For example, park emergency operations plans, fire plans, crime prevention plans, physical security plans, cave management plans, and the natural resources component of resources management plans should address the protection of archeological resources.

2. Relationship to Other Cultural Resources

Archeological research contributes to improved management, preservation, and treatment of other types of cultural resources in park areas. Conversely, the management, preservation, and treatment of archeological resources is enhanced through research in other cultural resource disciplines. Because of the potential interdisciplinary qualities of most cultural resources, archeologists and other cultural resource specialists will cooperate and collaborate on cultural resources studies (see the definition of "cultural resource specialist" in Appendix A of this guideline for a list of discipline specialists). Basic interdisciplinary relationships between archeological resources and other types of cultural resources are identified below.

a. Museum Collections

More than half of the 25 million objects in NPS museum collections are archeological in nature. Archeologists recover, document, analyze, stabilize, and prepare archeological collections for storage as integral elements of archeological research. They also analyze or reanalyze extant archeological collections. Archeologists, curators, archivists, and conservators consult on treatments for and consumptive uses of specific archeological objects, specimens, and records. Archeologists, curators, and ethnographers consult about the cultural affiliations of contemporary American Indian tribes, Native Alaskan groups, and Native Hawaiian organizations to materials in NPS museum collections. They also consult on culturally appropriate treatments for collections, the display of collections, and repatriation of items under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Archeologists, curators, and exhibit planners and designers consult on the display of archeological objects in museum exhibits.

b. Historic and Prehistoric Sites and Structures

Archeologists and historical architects consult and share expertise in preparing planning documents, analyzing building materials and structural fill, making condition assessments, and providing recommendations on routine maintenance and needed stabilization or other preservation treatments. Archeological studies address research questions historians and historical architects may have about the location, construction methods, developmental history, age, and use of historic and prehistoric sites and structures for which only ruins or subsurface remains now exist. Archeological studies must precede work on prehistoric or historic structures requiring ground disturbance. Archeological studies also must precede stabilization and other preservation treatments that will alter the building fabric of prehistoric structures. Such studies will ensure that important archeological data that otherwise would be lost or destroyed by ground disturbance, stabilization, or the preservation treatment is recovered and documented. The results of archeological studies relating to historic and prehistoric sites and structures are included in historic structure reports and historic resource studies and are recorded on the park's base map. Archeological information, condition assessments, and recommendations on maintenance, site stabilization and other preservation treatments are incorporated into the Inventory and Condition Assessment Program.

c. Cultural Landscapes

Archeologists help identify and document cultural landscapes through an analysis of stratigraphy, soils, fossil pollen, and buried features. The results of archeological studies also can help identify past land uses of an area. Historical landscape architects and landscape historians can provide information on past landforms, patterns, physical relationships, and features to archeologists. Mutual review of research proposals and other plans having the potential to affect both resource types will be undertaken.

d. Ethnographic Resources

Ethnographic studies can provide data on cultural affiliation of contemporary Native American and ethnic groups to prehistoric and historic archeological resources on park lands. They also can provide data on the cultural significance of those resources to such groups. Ethnographic studies make it possible to ensure that culturally affiliated groups are consulted about archeological research and permitting activities, management approaches for culturally sensitive archeological resources, and treatments and disposition of culturally sensitive materials in archeological collections. Archeological studies and analyses of archeological collections can provide data on the cultural affiliation of contemporary Native American and ethnic groups to prehistoric and historic archeological resources, human remains, and objects in collections.

3. Use of Archeological Resources

Archeological resources on park lands may be used for scientific research and for appropriate public interpretation and enjoyment.

a. Research Uses

NPS researchers are encouraged to seek cooperative relationships with recognized educational and scientific institutions and qualified individuals whose archeological research programs or interests will complement park management objectives. NPS facilities and assistance can be made available to qualified scholars conducting NPS-authorized research, provided that park operations and park resources are not impaired. Archeological research unrelated to park management objectives may be authorized when there is compelling evidence that the proposal is essential to significant research goals and can be reasonably achieved only by studying sites on park lands. (For information on permit requirements, see section B.1.b. of this chapter.)

Non-destructive research methods will be employed whenever practicable and feasible to preserve archeological resources in situ with minimal disturbance. Subsurface testing, surface collection of artifacts, and other destructive techniques should be used only when necessary to achieve research objectives or meet management requirements. When used, the scope of such destructive research activities should be kept to a minimum.

Destructive analysis of objects and materials (e.g., artifacts, soil matrix, pollen, charcoal, shell, bone, wood, and structural material) recovered from archeological resources is sometimes allowable as in chemical and physical tests to reveal their composition, age, or source. When destruction is minor or when objects to be destroyed are common, approval may be given at the park level. Destructive analysis of rare or significant archeological objects or materials must be preceded by scientific proposals and research designs reviewed by archeologists and curators in support offices or centers and approved in writing by regional directors. (For further information on consumptive use of archeological collections, see Chapter 9 of this guideline.)

b. Interpretive Uses

Archeological studies provide information and objects important to the park interpretive program. Park interpreters will be briefed about ongoing archeological studies so that they will be able to inform and respond to questions from park visitors about the research. Interpretive planning documents will be prepared for presenting this information in exhibits, publications, and other media. Programs for interpreting a park's archeological resources will be prepared by interpreters, archeologists, and other knowledgeable parties. Any alteration of an archeological resource to accommodate related security, safety, law enforcement, and disabled access interests must be preceded by planning, Section 106 review and compliance, and appropriate resource treatment.

4. Section 106 and NEPA Compliance

Chapter 5 of this guideline contains general procedures for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act in project planning. The NEPA Compliance Guideline (NPS-12) contains general procedures for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). With respect to archeological resources, at the earliest possible stage of planning it must be determined (1) whether and at what level the proposed project area has been surveyed archeologically, (2) whether archeological resources eligible for the National Register have been identified in the area, and (3) whether such resources will be affected by the proposed project. The potential of an undertaking to affect archeological resources will be assessed by applying the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's criteria of effect.

Whenever possible, undertakings should be designed to avoid impacting archeological resources. Archeological clearances, archeological reports, environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, development concept plans, and other documents will be prepared, as needed, to record the steps taken and alternatives considered to avoid impacting archeological resources. Some SHPOs allow simplified archeological clearance documentation for actions that will have no effect on resources. When avoidance is not possible or feasible, the unavoidable adverse effects must be mitigated through measures such as data recovery. Any required data recovery project will be designed in consultation with the SHPO and will conform to NPS and professional standards.

5. Funding and Staffing

Parks, support offices, and archeological and preservation centers should systematically evaluate their funding and staffing (FTE) requirements for archeological resource management, treatment, and protection purposes. Unmet funding and FTE needs should be identified and justified in park resources management plans, in cluster-wide archeological inventory plans, and in budget documents. All archeological research (including compliance-related projects) will include adequate funding for conducting the needed studies; analyzing recovered data; preparing final reports; cataloging, stabilizing, and preparing archeological collections for storage; preparing National Register nominations for eligible resources; making the results available to park managers, planners, interpreters, and other NPS specialists; and making the results available to the professional community and to the public.

D. Stewardship

Stewardship of archeological resources is wide-ranging. It includes their treatment, preservation, and protection. It includes monitoring resource condition and assessing threats and disturbances. It also includes staff involvement and training in protection concerns and methods, preservation of significant features, sites, and recovered materials, and interpretation of archeological resources for public benefit.

1. Treatment

Archeological resources will be left undisturbed unless intervention can be justified based on compelling research, interpretation, site protection, or park development needs. Recovered archeological materials and associated records will be treated in accordance with the NPS Management Policies, NPS Museum Handbook, and 36 CFR Part 79. Archeological collections will be cataloged, stabilized, and prepared for storage as part of the study or project that generated the material.

a. Preservation

Guidance for preserving historic and prehistoric structures is presented in Chapter 8 of this guideline, and that for museum objects is found in Chapter 9. More specific guidance for preserving archeological resources, including prehistoric structures, can be found in sources listed in Appendix J, the selected archeology bibliography. Guidance applicable to all types of archeological resources is summarized here:

(1) All resources will be protected against natural and human agents of destruction and deterioration whenever practicable.

(2) Preservation will maintain the existing form, integrity, and materials of the resource.

(3) Preservation will include techniques of arresting or retarding deterioration through a program of ongoing maintenance. Deteriorated areas (e.g., depressions created through erosion, slumping, subsidence, and other natural causes) will be backfilled or otherwise stabilized.

(4) Excavation and other destructive techniques will be employed only when necessary to provide sufficient information for research, interpretation, and management needs. Excavated areas (including potholes excavated by looters) will be backfilled or otherwise stabilized.

(5) Stabilization of a resource to arrest and inhibit deterioration will be done in such a way as to detract as little as possible from its appearance and significance and not adversely affect its research potential unless adequate data recovery has occurred. Stabilization by vegetation, installation of riprap or landscape netting, burial, or other alteration will be undertaken only after sufficient research or experimentation to determine the probable efficacy of the action and only after existing conditions are fully documented. A complete record of stabilization work will be kept.

(6) Data recovery will precede and be completed before physical intervention into any archeological resource, including sites associated with historic structures.

b. Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction

Archeological sites and structures will not be rehabilitated, restored, or reconstructed.

2. Protection

Archeological resources will be protected from vandalism and looting. Patrols, fencing, warning signs, and remote-sensing alarms will be used as appropriate. Stewardship programs wherein concerned local people are enlisted to monitor conditions of archeological resources are encouraged.

Interpretive and public educational programs to promote site protection are encouraged. The public should be made aware of the value of archeological resources and the penalties for destroying them through posters, films, and other media. Park staff should be made aware of protection concerns and methods through training sessions.



  • Sufficient research is conducted to identify and evaluate park archeological resources and to assess their condition and threats to them.

  • Recovered archeological materials are cleaned, conserved, studied, cataloged, and properly stored. Associated records documenting resources are maintained as a part of the archeological collection.

  • Information about archeological resources is compiled and maintained in the archeological component of the Cultural Sites Inventory. Paper and electronic records are maintained nationally and at parks, support offices, and centers.

  • Eligible archeological resources are nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Park base maps are prepared showing the location and distribution of archeological resources and the nature and extent of archeological identification activities.

  • Research results are disseminated to park managers, planners, interpreters, and other NPS specialists and incorporated into appropriate park planning documents.


  • Planning for actions that might affect archeological resources is preceded by research sufficient to identify and evaluate such resources.

  • Planning decisions promote the preservation of archeological resources in place.

  • Planning decisions that result in adverse effects on archeological resources are made only after a thorough analysis of impacts, when there are no feasible alternatives, and when all reasonable measures to limit the adverse effects are taken.

  • Required consultation and legal compliance is carried out, and the concerns raised during consultations are taken into account in decision-making.


  • Archeological resources are preserved and protected by eliminating and avoiding natural and human impacts, stabilizing sites and structures, monitoring conditions, and enforcing protective laws and regulations.

  • Information about archeological resources is included, as appropriate, in interpretive and educational programs designed for the public.

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