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What does the Archaeologist do?

The primary objectives of a Phase I Archaeological Survey are to identify within reason, if historic properties in accordance with CFR800 are present in an area of potential effect (APE) and to conduct a preliminary assessment of their historical significance using National Register of Historic Places (NRPH) criteria. The archaeologist first conducts an archaeological assessment or literature search at the office of the state archaeologist or the State Historic Preservation office to discover if any previously recorded sites lie within the proposed project area. Next, the archaeologist formulates a research design to conduct preliminary fieldwork such as a Phase I archaeological survey utilizing standardized archaeological methods and techniques.

The Phase I archaeological survey usually includes a complete coverage archaeological field survey of the project area. This survey is conducted to identify previously unrecorded historic properties. For example, a Phase I archaeological survey for a cellular tower would be concerned with the “direct effects” in the APE. This means the direct impact of the cellular tower and access road to any possible cultural resources in or on the ground that may be impacted by the construction and existence of the proposed cellular tower. Also, a literature search of the respective states archaeological records would be conducted to search for previously recorded archaeological sites existing within a given radius (from one-half to two miles depending upon tower height) of the proposed tower site.

The proposed project area is intensively investigated by several pedestrian survey transects as well as subsurface shovel tests and soil probes. Multiple soil probes are also distributed over the proposed tower site to confirm or deny the level of disturbance of the soil horizons and the possible addition of fill. Soil probes are also used to examine for potential buried soils containing cultural material. Urban locations are usually quite different than rural locations as determinations are often made that an entire area has been previously disturbed during the construction of surrounding buildings, industrial park, streets, sewers, driveways, utility trenches and landscaping.

After all the research and fieldwork is completed, the archaeologist writes a comprehensive report detailing the descriptive of the project area as well as the archaeological context of the area. The report notes any potential impact to all historic properties within the APE. The report then reaches a conclusion and makes recommendations with respect to the project and any historic properties that may or may not be impacted by the project.

What are cultural resources?

Cultural resources consist of artifacts, landforms and sites associated with past human activities. Artifacts such as projectile points and other stone tools are cultural resources. Cultural resources include prehistoric and ethnohistoric Native American archaeological sites, traditional cultural properties, historic archaeological sites, historic buildings, as well as elements or areas of the natural landscape having traditional cultural significance.

The Levels of Archaeological Investigation

The Phase I Archaeological Survey

The Phase I archeological survey is the preliminary level of archaeological investigation of an area affected by federal and state undertakings. This is the most common level of archaeological investigation and archaeological inquiry usually ends here.
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The Phase II Testing

Phase II testing takes place when additional data is needed to assess eligibility in meeting the criteria for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. This is the second most common level of archaeological investigation.
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The Phase III Mitigation of Adverse Effect

This level of archaeological investigation is employed when the historic property has been determined to be eligible for inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places and there is an adverse effect to the historic property by a project.
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Wetland Delineations

Midwest Archaeological Consultants is now capable of completing wetland delineations. Read more