The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, January 9, 2012

Phase 2

Most of the fieldwork that I have been doing for the past two years falls within the category of Phase 1 projects.  Today, however, I am going out for a Phase 2 project.

A Phase 1 project, at least in California CRM parlance, is a project geared towards identifying cultural resources (including archaeological sites, historic structures, traditional cultural properties, etc.) that may be impacted by a project.  Usually this means doing a records search at the appropriate repository/archive for archaeological and historic information, followed  by a pedestrian survey of the area in order to see if there are any resources present.  Sometimes, as has been my lot lately, you go to what is sometimes called an "extended" Phase 1 or boundary testing - you dig a few holes in order to see if the archaeological site in question has a sub-surface component of which you would otherwise be unaware, and to see whether that subsurface component (if it exists) extends into the area likely to be disturbed by a project.

Phase I projects are, by far, the most common type of project.  Often, once resources are identified, they can be avoided, and the project moves forward. 

When a resource can't be avoided, or the project proponent would prefer not to work around it, then it usually has to be evaluated for it's eligibility to the state or federal register of historic resources.  In the case of archaeological sites, this usually involves excavations that are more extensive than what is done for the extended Phase 2. 

The Phase 2 can be enjoyable because, while the excavation performed is limited, the goal is to determine what types of materials are present, and to get a rough idea of the quantities and variety of archaeological materials.  In other words, while the Phase 1 does generate data, and that data does have definite value outside of CRM and into research, the Phase 2 begins to more closely resemble research archaeology, and there is even the possibility of addressing some more advanced research questions with the data generated than is possible with the Phase 1. 

Of course, the main goal of this part of the project is still essentially regulatory in nature - we have to determine whether the site is eligible for the appropriate register.  However, most archaeological sites are determined eligible for the federal register under Criterion D (and in California, they are usually eligible for the state register under Criterion 4, which is almost identical to federal Criterion D) which states that a site is eligible if it has the potential to yield data important to the study of history or prehistory - in other words, that the site has research value.

So, this is a bit more of the type of archaeology that most people think of when they hear what I do for a living.  And while I enjoy pedestrian survey - getting paid to take a walk is excellent - I am looking forward to changing pace today.

If the resource is eligible for placement on the appropriate register, then further work may be required, but that is a story for another time...

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