Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

Skip First Level Navigation | Skip All Navigation

Home > Project Review > Archaeological Survey Guidelines

Archaeological Survey Guidelines

June 10, 2002

This document is provided as background information to agencies, corporations, professional consultants or individuals needing contract archaeological services (also known as Cultural Resources Management archaeology) in Maine. These guidelines are based on state rules (94-089 Chapter 812).

Project Types

The vast majority of contract archaeology survey work falls into one of three categories.

Phase I surveys are designed to determine whether or not archaeological sites exist on a particular piece of land. Such work involves checking records of previous archaeology in the area, walking over the landscape to inspect land forms and look for surface exposures of soil and possible archaeological material, and the excavation of shovel test pits in areas of high probability.

Phase II surveys are designed to focus on one or more sites that are already known to exist, find site limits by digging test pits, and determine site content and preservation. Information from Phase II survey work is used by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC) to determine site significance (eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places). Phase III archaeological work, often called data recovery, is careful excavation of a significant archaeological site to recover the artifacts and information it contains in advance of construction or other disturbance.

Archaeological sites are further divided into two broad categories of culture, prehistoric (or Native American), and historic (or European-American). Different archaeological specialists are usually needed for prehistoric or historic sites because the nature of content and preservation and site locations are quite different.

Scope of Work

In responding to a project submission, the MHPC may issue a letter specifying which type of archaeological survey is needed (prehistoric, historic or both) and at what level (Phase I, II, or III). Often the response letter contains further information, such as the suspected presence of an historic site of a certain age, or a statement that only a portion of the project parcel in question is sensitive for prehistoric sites and only that portion needs archaeological survey.

Once the project applicant has one or more scopes of work (proposals) from appropriate archaeologists (see below), the applicant should submit their preferred proposal (without attached financial information or bid total) to the MHPC for approval. MHPC will not comment upon cost, but will comment on the appropriateness of the scale and scope of the work. An approval from MHPC of the scope of work is the applicant’s guarantee that, if the field and laboratory work are done according to the scope, and appropriately described in writing, the results will be accepted by MHPC.

The final written report on the project must also be submitted to MHPC for review and comment.

Finding an Archaeologist

At the time that MHPC issues a letter requiring archaeological survey work, MHPC will also supply one (or more) lists of archaeologists (Levels 1 and/or 2, historic or prehistoric) appropriate to the type of work (Phase I, II, III, historic or prehistoric). Archaeologists on the Level 2 Approved Lists can do projects of any level, including Phase I archaeological survey projects. Level 1 archaeologists are restricted to doing Phase I surveys, and certain planning projects for municipal governments.

MHPC maintains lists of archaeologists interested in working in different geographic areas of Maine, and those who are qualified in different types of work. The archaeologists themselves indicate their availability (except for short-term absence) to MHPC on a periodic basis, so archaeologists on the list can be expected to respond to inquiries. The applicant should solicit proposals or bids for work from archaeologists whose names appear on the list supplied by MHPC.

These archaeologists’ names are taken from lists of archaeologists approved for work in Maine by MHPC under a set of rules establishing minimal qualifications, such as previous supervisory experience in northern New England, and an appropriate graduate degree. However, the inclusion of an archaeologist on one of these lists should not be interpreted as an endorsement by the MHPC beyond these limited qualification criteria. Moreover, the MHPC cannot recommend the services of an individual archaeologist.

Project Final Report

Whatever the archaeological survey result, a final report on the project should be submitted by the applicant to the MHPC. The MHPC will review the report, and issue further guidance or issue a “clearance” letter for the project.