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Cultural Resources Identification, Recording and Evaluation


(from North Dakota SHPO Guidelines Manual for Cultural Resource Inventory Projects)

Identification of Sites, Isolated Finds and Site Leads

A cultural resource site is defined as a location of past human activity that took place over 50 years ago and which left physical traces of that activity in the form of (1) an intact cultural feature, (2) six or more artifacts found within a maximum size of 1 hectare (0.25 acre or 1,000 square meters), and/or (3) an intact subsurface cultural deposit regardless of the number of artifacts.

A location of five or fewer artifacts and identified by the archaeologist(s) as representing an area of very limited past activity may be recorded as an isolated find.

Site leads refer to resources that lack sufficient information to fully record and complete all necessary data fields on the North Dakota Cultural Resources Survey (NDCRS) site forms.  Examples of site leads include: (1) locations recorded from various historic documents, (2) locations reported by a landowner or other non-professional, (3) a location with five or fewer surface visible artifacts which, in the professional judgment of the archaeologist(s), is likely to be a limited surface expression of a former occupation area where most of the artifacts are still buried, and/or (4) locations recorded by a cultural resource specialist outside of their project area(s), and thus not fully recorded.

Recording of Cultural Resources

The database of information for cultural resources sites in North Dakota (the NDCRS) is maintained by the Archaeology and Historic Preservation Division (AHPD) of the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND).  Verified sites are indexed according to the Smithsonian Institution Trinomial System (SITS).  There is no charge for assigning SITS numbers.

The AHPD has developed standardized archeological, architectural, and historical archeological, site forms and corresponding training manuals for completing the forms.  All of these documents are available online and detail how to properly fill out the NDCRS forms.  Cultural resource data submitted to the AHPD for inclusion in the NDCRS database must be submitted on a standardized NDCRS form.  SITS numbers are assigned only to adequately recorded, verified cultural resource sites.  Site numbers will not be assigned via telephone, fax, or email without prior submission of forms in hard copy.  Up to fourteen (14) working days may be required to process a site form.  The timing of the 14 day period begins upon receipt of the form by the AHPD.

Evaluation of Cultural Resources

The preliminary evaluation of all cultural resources identified within the study area should be made in sufficient detail to provide an understanding of the historical values that they represent.  This is done to aid in the nomination of resources to the National Register of Historic Places, management of the resources and/or the planning of mitigation of adverse effects of proposed projects on the resources in the event such mitigation becomes necessary.  Throughout the recording and evaluation process the Principal Investigator should remember that the evaluation, as determined by him/her, is a recommendation and not a final determination.  Only the lead agency and North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, through consultation, can provide a final determination of eligibility (DOE) on cultural resources in North Dakota.

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