Archaeology

Archaeological research, documentation, and investigations assume many forms and generally are modified on a project by project basis to account for site specific conditions and historical/prehistorical context.  The scope of work is often prepared in conjunction with the wishes of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or other regulatory agency.  Cultural resources are evaluated in reference to criteria established by the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  Archaeological Investigation may consist of Phase I, Phase II, or Phase III studies depending on the setting and/or the specific requirements and guidelines of the SHPO.

 

Phase I archaeological surveys are performed to identify cultural resources on the subject site, and include documentary research, historic map research, and predictive model analysis.

 

Phase II evaluation determines whether or not a previously identified resource meets any NRHP criteria.  Sites under local jurisdiction may be assessed under additional criteria.  For archaeological resources, it is important to assess the structural integrity, determine the boundaries of the site, and identify it’s age and function.  This is accomplished generally through close interval shovel tests and a number of larger excavation units.  Remote sensing may be employed as well as controlled surface collection of artifacts.

FEATURED PROJECT PROFILE: 

Shore Health Hospital

An initial Phase I archaeological survey of nearly 100 acres was conducted on land selected for a new hospital site.  Ten (10) archaeological sites were identified during the course of the project.  Four (4) of the sites were evaluated as...

 

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Phase III archaeological study is conducted when all other mitigation options have been ruled out.  These studies can be extensive, depending upon the research potential of the site.  Research designs are prepared in conjunction with the appropriate review agency.  Large areas of the site are excavated, often yielding large numbers of artifacts.  Detailed laboratory analyses of the artifacts and field records are conducted to produce a report that contributes to the scientific understanding of the site and the people that deposited the materials.  Extensive historic research is also done to provide context to the find and establish the site's place in history.

Archival Research:

Archival/Historical studies are usually in the form of land ownership histories or genealogical studies.  Land ownership histories, often called house history, identify owners of a tract of land (or house) through time.  Auxiliary information includes biographical data on past owners.  Genealogical work, or the tracing of lineal descent, is the second major form of historical study.  Other forms of historical study include compilation of historical data from census, tax assessment, or other records.  These types of studies form valuable background for the assessment of social status of individuals and in defining trends of historical change.  These studies may be stand-alone projects that help determine the potential of a property to contain cultural resources.  This information might be sought prior to land acquisition or as part of a more comprehensive archaeological or architectural study.  Often, it is possible to locate where houses or cemeteries are or were located.  Archaeological site predictive models are assessed to provide an indication of the potential for cultural resources.  Environmental data can be examined along with historical data.  Changes to the landscape in historic times might hide potential resources.  Understanding the geography prior to European impact provides a means of predicting the potential for prehistoric sites to exist, and where on the property they may be located.

private cemeteries, or municipal cemeteries, there may be issues of accidental disturbance due to "lost" graves.  It is possible, through various methods including remote sensing and excavation, to map grave yards.  It is easy enough to map above ground indications (markers) but it is also possible to map unmarked graves or determine areas within a cemetery that are vacant and available for future burials.   Ground cover, soil conditions, and client attitude affect the methods selected for these types of studies.  Excavation is the most reliable means available but when earthmoving is not appropriate, as in a church yard, remote sensing may be considered.  Ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction are common tools.  If requested, Acer can map above and below grave indications providing a comprehensive picture of what space is available for burials.  Various software packages are available for cemetery management once the detailed mapping is accomplished.  At times it becomes necessary to move a cemetery.  Acer is experienced in removing historic and prehistoric burials and is intimately aware of the special aspects that are involved.  Accidental discoveries often need a rapid response in order to keep the larger project on track.

Cemetery Studies:

Cemetery studies can be an important issue in land development.  Depending on the laws involved, cemeteries may be moved.  Often it is easier and less expensive to leave the cemetery in place and work around it as green space.  The delineation and mapping of cemeteries has become more important in the last few years as more cemeteries have been destroyed and public awareness has increased.  Graveyards, identified by headstones or found through documentary research or oral history, can be delineated with archaeological techniques in order to avoid disturbing graves. Above ground indications rarely define the full limit of old cemeteries and it is common to find graves outside of fences that enclose the standing headstones.    For churches,

Building Restoration:

The restoration of buildings can be significantly aided by archaeological study.  Some grant and loan programs insist on archaeology as a component of the restoration.  Direct benefits include the recovery of construction details such as wings, foundation locations, and construction details.  Excavation might also recover original hardware and in some cases, paint chips.  Since buildings are a part of a larger archaeological site, information about the people who lived or worked at a site is collected providing a broader context for the interpretation of the standing structure.  These projects are typically driven by the specific needs of the restoration project rather than archaeological research potential.  Usually, the first concern is foundation repair.  Builder's trenches, porch piers or post holes, and drip lines are archaeological features important to dating the building and may useful details in reconstruction.

Faunal Analysis:

The analysis of faunal remains from archaeological sites is a specialty of Acer’s archaeologist, Dr. Otter.  His master's thesis and doctoral dissertation were both related to faunal studies.  Edward Otter, Inc. maintains an extensive comparative collection of faunal material.  Analyses generally go beyond the identification of the animals represented in the collection.  The project goals and nature of the collection drive the level of analysis.  Larger samples provide more information and collections with fine mesh recovery provide a more complete picture of the diet of past peoples.  Portions of animals representing specific cuts of meat can be identified.  This type of analysis may have implications in examining the ethnic or social status of the site occupants.  Changes in marketing brought on by technological advances of refrigeration and rapid transit (trains and trucks) might also be expressed in the portions of animals present.  Examining the various animals present can provide clues to past environments and hunting or fishing territories.  Feasting and other social indications might also be examined through the diversity of the assemblage.

Additional Cultural & Environmental Resource Management Services Provided by ACER:
NEPA
Historic Preservation
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West Berlin, NJ 08091

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F: 856-809-1203 

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