Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-2pzkn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-28T04:27:51.676Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Archaeological Survey Data Quality, Durability, and Use in the United States

Findings and Recommendations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Richard H. Wilshusen
PaleoCultural Research Group, Boulder, CO 80304 (
Michael Heilen
Statistical Research, Inc., Haymarket, Virginia 20169 (
Wade Catts
Commonwealth Heritage Group, West Chester, PA 19380 (
Karyn de Dufour
Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Carson City, NV 89701 (
Bradford Jones
Texas Historical Commission, Austin, TX 78701 (
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


Core share and HTML view are not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

High-quality archaeological surveys and data are vital to preservation planning and mitigation efforts. Federal and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs) are accumulating and reviewing more data at an ever-faster pace. Given the critical nature of this information, a SAA task force was charged with assessing current survey practices and concerns. Our review indicates that survey policies and archaeological standards have improved substantially over the last two decades, but SHPOs remain challenged by insufficient professional training for field archaeologists, the need for standardization and integration of new technologies in field work, reporting, and review, as well as the sheer quantity and variety of digital data. A number of analytical tools and metrics are available to assess data quality, but seemingly there is not time or money for states to evaluate how to improve existing and future survey data. We draw upon a survey of SHPOs, a review of current literature, and our own experience to assess archaeological survey quality, data utility and durability for current and anticipated future uses. We offer suggestions on how to move forward, including consideration of an e-106 system for streamlining transfer and exchange of digital data and upgrading current approaches to survey and planning.

Prospección y datos arqueológicos de alta calidad son vitales para los esfuerzos de planificación y mitigación. Oficinas federales y estatales de preservación histórica (SHPOs) están acumulando y revisando datos a un ritmo cada vez más rápido. Dada la naturaleza crítica de esta información, una fuerza especial de SAA fue encargada de evaluar las prácticas de las prospecciones actuales y preocupaciones asociadas. Nuestra revisión indica que las políticas de prospecciones y los estándares arqueológicos han mejorado sustancialmente en las últimas dos décadas, pero SHPOs todavía enfrentan los desafíos de insuficiente entrenamiento profesional para los arqueólogos de campo, la falta de normalización y la integración de nuevas tecnologías en el trabajo de campo, presentación de informes y revisión de formas, así como por la gran cantidad de datos digitales. Una serie de herramientas y métricas de análisis están disponibles para evaluar la calidad de los datos, pero al parecer no hay tiempo ni dinero para que los estados evalúen cómo mejorar los datos de las encuestas actuales y futuras. Nos basamos en una encuesta de SHPOs, una revisión de la literatura actual, y nuestra propia experiencia para evaluar la calidad, la utilidad y la durabilidad de los datos arqueológicos para las necesidades actuales y futuras anticipadas. Ofrecemos sugerencias de cómo seguir adelante, incluyendo la consideración de un sistema de e -106 para agilizar la transferencia y el intercambio de datos digitales y la mejora de los enfoques actuales para prospección y planificación.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2016


References Cited

Altschul, Jeffrey H., Klein, Terry H., and Sebastian, Lynne 2005. A Workshop on Predictive Modeling and Cultural Resource Management of Military Installations, Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 15–18, 2004. Legacy Resource Management Program, Legacy Project 03-167. Electronic document,, accessed February 9, 2016.Google Scholar
Altschul, Jeffrey H., and Patterson, Thomas C. 2010. Trends in Employment and Training in American Archaeology. In Voices in American Archaeology, edited by Ashmore, Wendy, Lippert, Dorothy T., and Mills, Barbara J., pp. 291316. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) 2016. Making the Economic Case for CRM., accessed February 6, 2016.Google Scholar
Anschuetz, Kurt 2005. Landscapes as Memory: Archaeological History to Learn From and to Live By. In Engaged Anthropology: Research Essays on North American Archaeology, Ethnobotany, and Museology, Papers in Honor of Richard I. Ford, edited by Hegmon, Michelle and Eiselt, B. Sunday, pp. 5272. Anthropological Papers No. 94. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
Banning, E. B. 2002. Archaeological Survey. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bocinsky, R.Kyle, and Kohler, Timothy A. 2014. A 2000-Year Reconstruction of the Rain-Fed Maize Agricultural Niche in the US Southwest. Nature Communications 5:5618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colwell, Chip, and Ferguson, T.J. 2014. The Snow-Capped Mountain and the Uranium Mine: Zuni Heritage and the Landscape Scale in Cultural Resource Management. Advances in Archaeological Practice 2(4):234251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Doelle, William H., Barker, Pat, Cushman, David, Heilen, Michael, Herhahn, Cynthia, and Rieth, Christina 2016. Incorporating Archaeological Resources in Landscape-Level Planning and Management. Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(2):118131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heilen, Michael, and Altschul, Jeffrey H. 2013. The Accuracy and Adequacy of In-Field Artifact Analysis: An Experimental Test at Two Archaeological Sites in the Western United States. Advances in Archaeological Practice 1(2):121138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heilen, Michael, and Murrell, Monica (editors) 2015. An Assessment of Transect Recording Unit Survey and Subsurface Testing Methods at Four Sites in the Permian Basin, New Mexico. Technical Report 1568, Statistical Research, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
Heilen, Michael, Nagle, Christopher, and Altschul, Jeffrey H. 2008. An Assessment of Archaeological Data Quality: A Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Legacy Resource Management Program Project “To Develop Analytical Tools for Characterizing, Visualizing, and Evaluating Archaeological Data Quality Systematically for Communities of Practice within the Department of Defense.” ERDC-CERL. Technical Report 08-65. Statistical Research Inc., Tucson. Electronic document,, accessed February 10, 2016.Google Scholar
Heizer, Robert F. 1949. A Manual of Archaeological Field Methods. The National Press, Millbrae, California.Google Scholar
Hilton, Michael B. 2003. Quantifying Postdepositional Redistribution of the Archaeological Record Produced by Freeze-Thaw and Other Mechanisms: An Experimental Approach. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 10:165202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holtz, Debra, Markham, Adam, Cell, Kate, and Ekwurzel, Brenda 2014. National Landmarks at Risk How Rising Seas, Floods, and Wildfires Are Threatening the United States’ Most Cherished Historic Sites.Electronic document,, accessed October 20, 2015.Google Scholar
Ingbar, Eric, Klein, Terry H., and Cascella, Melissa 2015. Application of Geographic Information System for Historic Properties. National Cooperative Highway Research Program 25–25, Task 90. Report prepared for American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
King, Thomas F. 1978. The Archaeological Survey: Methods and Uses. Electronic document,, accessed October 19, 2015.Google Scholar
Kintigh, Keith 1988. The Effectiveness of Subsurface Testing: A Simulation Approach. American Antiquity 53:686707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kintigh, Keith W., Altschul, Jeffrey H., Beaudry, Mary C., Drennan, Robert D., Kinzig, Ann P., Kohler, Timothy A.,Limp, W. Fredrick, Maschner, Herbert D. G., Michener, William K., Pauketat, Timothy R., Peregrine, Peter, Sabloff, Jeremy A., Wilkinson, Tony J., Wright, Henry T., and Zeder, Melinda A. 2014. Grand Challenges for Archaeology. American Antiquity 79:524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kintigh, Keith W., Altschul, Jeffrey H., Kinzig, Ann P., Limp, W. Fredrick, Michener, William K., Sabloff, Jeremy A., Hackett, Edward J., Kohler, Timothy A., Ludäscher, Bertram, and Lynch, Clifford A. 2015. Cultural Dynamics, Deep Time, and Data Planning Cyberinfrastructure Investments for Archaeology. Advances in Archaeological Practice 3(1):115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Larralde, Signa, Stein, Martin, and Schlanger, Sarah H. 2016. The Permian Basin Programmatic Agreement after Seven Years of Implementation. Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(2):149160 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Laurenzi, Andy, Peeples, Matthew A., Doelle, William H. 2013. Cultural Resources Priority Area Planning in Sub-Mogollon Arizona and New Mexico. Advances in Archaeological Practice 1(2):6176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leaders in Energy and Preservation (LEAP) 2016. Screening Tool: About. Electronic document,, accessed February 6, 2016.Google Scholar
Lightfoot, Kent G., Cuthrell, Rob Q., Striplen, Chuck J., and Hylkema, Mark G. 2013. Rethinking the Study of Landscape Management Practices Among Hunter-Gatherers in North America. American Antiquity 78(2):285301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCarthy, Deidre 2009. Historic Preservation Response Methodology: Based on the Katrina Response Model. Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
McManamon, Francis P., Doershuk, John, Lipe, William D., McCulloch, Tom, Polglase, Christopher, Schlanger, Sarah, Sebastian, Lynne, and Sullivan, Lynne 2016. Task Force Report on Valuing Archaeological Resources. Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(2):132148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mills, Barbara J., Peeples, Matthew A., Haas, W. Randall Jr., Borck, Lewis, Clark, Jeffery J., and Roberts, J.M. Jr. 2015. Multiscalar Perspectives on Social Networks in the Late Prehistoric Southwest. American Antiquity 80:324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moore, Gordon E. 1965. Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits. Electronics Magazine 38(8): 8285.Google Scholar
Moore, Gordon E., 1975. Progress in Digital Integrated Electronics. Speech text from International Electron Devices Meeting, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 1975, pp. 11–13. Electronic document,, accessed October 19, 2015.Google Scholar
National Park Service (State, Tribal, and Local Plans and Grants Division) 2014. The Historic Preservation Fund Annual Report. Electronic document,, accessed September 1, 2015.Google Scholar
Ortman, Scott G., Varien, Mark D., and Gripp, Lee 2007. Empirical Bayesian Methods for Archaeological Survey Data: An Application from the Mesa Verde Region. American Antiquity 72:241272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Palumbo, Scott 2015. Assessing the Utility of Plowed Field Surface Deposits in Pilot Research. Advances in Archaeological Practice 3(1):7892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raymond, Gerry, Harris, Nina, Johnson, Jalesa, and Yost, Stephen 2007. Class III Survey and Selective Spatial Data Analyses of 6,385 Acres on the Western Block I Lease in Pierce Canyon, Eddy County, New Mexico. Prepared by Ecosystem Management, Inc., for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, Consultant Report Number 50708.Google Scholar
Ryan, Kevin C., Jones, Ann Trinkle, Koerner, Cassandra L., and Lee, Kristine M. (editors) 2012. Wildland Fire in Ecosystems: Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology. General Technical Report no. 42, vol. 3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft.Collins, Colorado.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schlanger, Sarah, MacDonell, George, Larralde, Signa, and Stein, Martin 2013. Going Big: The Permian Basin Memorandum of Agreement as a Fundamental Shift in Section 106 Compliance. Advances in Archaeological Practice 1(1):1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sebastian, Lynne, Altschul, Jeffrey H., Rohe, Chris M., Thompson, Scott, and Hayden, William E. 2005. Adaptive Management and Planning Models for Cultural Resources in Oil and Gas Fields in New Mexico and Wyoming: Final Technical Report. U.S. Department of Energy Technical Report. Gnomon, Inc., Carson City, Nevada.Google Scholar
Sesler, Leslie M., Hovezak, Timothy D., and Wilshusen, Richard H. 2000. Cultural Landscape of Dinétah: The Navajo Occupation of Frances Mesa. In The Frances Mesa Alternative Treatment Project: New Interpretations of the Ancestral Pueblo and Navajo Occupations in the Navajo Reservoir Area, compiled by Wilshusen, Richard H., pp. 159253. La Plata Archaeological Consultants, Research Paper No. 3. Dolores, Colorado.Google Scholar
Sharp, Kayeleigh, and Litschi, Melissa 2014. Maximizing E-Data Collection: A Novel Approach for Data Collection and Transmission Using Tablet Technology. Advances in Archaeological Practice 2(2):104122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shott, Michael J. 1985. Shovel-Test Sampling as a Site Discovery Technique: A Case Study from Michigan. Journal of Field Archaeology 12(4):457468.Google Scholar
Wells, Joshua J., White, Andrew A., Kansa, Eric, Kansa, Sarah W., Yerka, Stephen J., Anderson, David G., Bissett, Thaddeus, Myers, Kelsey Noack, and Demuth, R. Carl 2014. Changing Households and Rising Seas: Two Perspectives on the Potential of Using the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) to Link Datasets. Poster presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference (MAC). Electronic document,, accessed November 2, 2015.Google Scholar
Wilshusen, Richard H. 2015. Surveying the Field: Finding Common Cause in the Three Archaeologies. Presented at American Cultural Resources Association, Broomfield, Colorado. Digital document, (tDAR id: 399663) doi:10.6067/ XCV8GQ7042, accessed February 9, 2016.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Wilshusen et al. supplementary material

Appendix 1

Download Wilshusen et al. supplementary material(File)
File 25.6 KB
Supplementary material: PDF

Wilshusen et al. supplementary material

Appendix 2

Download Wilshusen et al. supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 119.7 KB
Supplementary material: PDF

Wilshusen et al. supplementary material

Appendix 3

Download Wilshusen et al. supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 432.7 KB