Field archaeology: Whose line is it anyway?

Posted in: Cultural Resources

archaeology-300x200pxIn most cases, compliance archaeologists define the Area of Potential Effects to extend beyond the area of proposed ground disturbance and/or the existing or proposed right-of-way. Similar to other environmental professionals, archaeologists must consider indirect and cumulative effects when defining the APE for a proposed project. However, how do archaeologists proceed when a site extends beyond the expected study limits?

I’ve experienced how the protocol can substantially vary based on the state, project type or agency leading the project. For example:

  • In some states, if the portion of the site within the APE is determined to not have integrity nor qualify as potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, then the location of the unassessed portion of the site is recommended for avoidance.
  • In other states, archaeologists are required to follow and investigate sites to a negotiated distance, such as expand the survey area 100 feet beyond the APE.
  • Elsewhere, archaeologists continue to follow the site, unless it extends beyond a half-mile, prior to completing the National Register evaluation.

Regardless of how the APE is defined, compliance activities must satisfy Section 106 resulting in a reasonable and good faith effort when identifying potential historic properties. As a professional how do you address these situations and is there anything you would like to see done differently?

Christina Slattery

About the Author

Christina Slattery specializes in historic preservation of transportation and engineering structures. She evaluates the significance of properties ranging from missile defense systems to road corridors, and develops creative mitigation strategies for projects.

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