Archaeological Resource Service provides all aspects of cultural resource investigation. The following procedures are offered as examples of our approach to these tasks.
Literature checks include a check of the Regional Office of the California Historical Resources Information System, which is responsible for records of archaeological sites, archaeological evaluations, historic architectural data, and other important information. In most of Northern California the Northwest Regional Office in Cotati, near Sonoma State University is the appropriate repository. This information is supplemented by information from the files of Archaeological Resource Service.
We also examine historical records to determine the presence or absence of past or present land uses that constitute potentially historic deposits or features.
We contact the Native American Heritage Commission by FAX with a request to check the Sacred Lands file maintained by them. This is a mandatory part of every project that is required by the state of California. This database lists sacred places recorded by Native Americans or observed by anthropologists or archaeologists. These places can be rock art sites (petroglyphs or pictographs), cemeteries or funerary locations, important village sites, or locations associated with specific events or features of oral tradition.
The Native American Heritage Commission supplies a list of appropriate Native American contacts for each project. We send a letter to each individual requesting any information they have or comment they wish to make regarding the project site. This procedure is also required by the State of California.
We contact the local historical societies, historical groups, and other interested parties if they can be identified. We send a letter to each organization requesting any information they have or comment they wish to make regarding the project site.
Archaeological evaluation of a parcel can involve several different aspects. Literature searches, surface evaluation, and perhaps other tasks are often required before an evaluation can be completed. Archaeological Resource Service can determine the appropriate approach to resolve cultural resource issues for any project. Full consultation includes not only identifying the problem, but offering solutions as well. We deal in answers.
Architectural evaluation consists of the examination and evaluation of standing structures, buildings or objects to determine their classification under California or federal guidelines. Generally, any building over 45 years old is eligible for evaluation. Eligibility for evaluation, however, does not indicate that a building, structure, or object is, in fact, a candidate for nomination to the state or federal register.
The field evaluation generally consists of examining all exposed soils within the proposed project. The examination concentrates on ridgelines, springs, streams, and other locations that would be attractive to Native American settlement or use. This evaluation is undertaken on foot, and is an intensive examination of the ground surface. If it appears appropriate to do so, soil samples are taken from the surface. The samples are usually taken using a 1 inch diameter, hollow core soil probe. Where possible, the soil plug is replaced in the hole after examination.
Archaeological excavation, if necessary consists of excavating the requisite number or volume of archaeological test units and/or hand auger bores within the potential impact area of the project.
Each standard test unit measures 1x1 meter in surface area, and is excavated in 10 cm. levels, or natural strata if appropriate. Excavation is usually carried to the base of the cultural deposit. All recovered soils are processed by screening to remove artifacts and other constituents. The mesh of screen used varies with soil conditions. In most cases the mesh used will be .125 inches (1/8 inch), but in no case will the mesh be larger than .25 inches (1\4 inch). If appropriate, soils retained in the screens are transported to the Archaeological Resource Service laboratory for further processing. If it appears appropriate to do so, additional soil samples are taken from the surface of the parcel, from the excavated unit(s), and/or from auger or probe samples at depth in the parcel. For estimating purposes, one excavation unit is defined as 1 cubic meter of soil. This is usually a 1x1x1 meter excavation unit. Excavation beyond 1 meter deep in a 1x1 meter unit begins a second excavation unit for estimation purposes. Multiple units may be placed together to form an areal excavation, and excavation may not continue to one meters depth where the archaeological site is not that deep. In shallow sites, one standard excavation unit may consist of two 1x1x.5 meter excavations, for example.
Hand augering, if necessary, is carried out using a four or five inch diameter twist type hand auger. Excavation occurs in 10 cm. intervals, or natural strata, as appropriate. Excavation is carried to the base of the cultural deposit. All recovered soils are processed by screening to remove artifacts and other constituents. The mesh of screen used varies with soil conditions. In most cases the mesh used will be .125 inches (1/8 inch), but in no case will the mesh be larger than .25 inches (1\4 inch). If appropriate, soils retained in the screens are transported to the Archaeological Resource Service laboratory for further processing.
Mechanized testing procedures, such as backhoe excavation or mechanized borings, may be necessary over the course of the project. In all cases, the smallest equipment appropriate to the task will be used. Mechanized excavation is used to identify the presence or absence of cultural deposits, and cannot be used to evaluate the condition or significance of archaeological deposits.
Archaeological monitoring is performed under the procedures outlined below:
Native American burials are often placed in the ground in a particular position and orientation and are sometimes associated with ceremonial and/or utilitarian type artifacts, as well as indications of preinterment burial rituals and/or grave pits. The presence or absence of these types of artifacts and features also contributes significant information about the past. Historic era burials can also contribute significant information about our more recent past.
The Native American community is often sensitive to the scientific study of prehistoric Native American remains. Some Tribes welcome scientific study and support new technologies, and other Tribes are emphatic that the remains not be studied. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) require the collection of this information in order to reduce impacts to a less-than-significant effect in a data recovery project. It is always recommended to consult often and sincerely with the Native American community and in particular, the “Most Likely Descendent” to ensure that their concerns are addressed; and whenever possible Native American burials should be left undisturbed
DISINTERMENT OF HUMAN REMAINS
Disinterment of human remains is a very sensitive process. On discovery of human remains, all work in the vicinity of the remains is stopped while the county coroner is contacted. If the skeletal remains are found to be prehistoric, Native American and not modern, then the coroner must call the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) in Sacramento, which will designate the "Most Likely Descendant" (MLD) of the remains. The MLD will be responsible for recommending to the landowner or person responsible for the excavation work the disposition and treatment, with appropriate dignity, of any human remains and associated grave goods (PRC Section 5097.98). If the NAHC is unable to identify a MLD or if the MLD fails to make a recommendations within 24 hours after being notified by the NAHC then the landowner or authorized representative shall rebury the human remains and associated grave goods with appropriate dignity on the property in a location not subject to further subsurface disturbance and the location should be recorded with the city, county, or appropriate jurisdiction within which the discovery is made, and the Northwest Information Center in Rohnert Park. If the landowner rejects the MLD’s recommendations then the NAHC will mediate in an attempt to provide measures acceptable to the landowner. If mediation fails to resolve the issues, the land owner is required to rebury the remains, along with all associated artifacts, in a location on the same parcel where they were discovered, that will not be subject to future disturbance.
Under state law and current procedure the following time functions apply to the discovery of human remains:
Archaeological Resource Service can prepare documents and reports to satisfy any permit granting agency. Our reports have been welcomed by federal, state and local agencies. The documents that we produce are clearly written, well organized, liberally illustrated, and meet all of the requirements of the agencies they are submitted to. Imagine receiving a technical report that you enjoy reading.
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