This section is designed to provide a brief description of what constitutes an archaeological site and what constitutes a significant site. An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past cultural activity is preserved (either prehistoric-Native American, historic, or contemporary). Archaeological sites are abandoned/discarded cultural remains which are usually buried by sediments. A wide variety of archaeological sites can be anticipated. The National Register defines a site partly based on age, with the minimum age being 50 years. Sites in North America are usually categorized by their temporal and cultural affiliation. The two major categories include prehistoric (also known as pre-contact or American Indian), roughly dating from 15,000 BC to 1600 AD., and historic (early European and historic United States) dating from approximately 1500 AD to 1960 AD. Twentieth Century archaeological sites typically date to the early part of this century and comprise residential and industrial type sites. Prehistoric sites comprise base camps, hunting camps, rock shelters, petroglyphs (rock carvings), quarries, and cemeteries. Historic sites can be domestic (i.e. residences), industrial (mills or factories), military (battlefield or encampment), and or religious (church, temple, graveyard). Human occupation of North America began at least 15,000 years ago with the arrival of the first Americans (American Indians). They occupied vast portions of the North American continent until the European contact period. The effects of European colonization, including warfare and disease, destroyed and exterminated the various cultures and their people especially in the eastern part of North America. European culture and eventually the creation of the United States became the succeeding cultural entities to occupy vast portions of North America up to the present. Evidence from the prehistoric/pre-contact cultures comprises artifacts such as projectile points (i.e., arrow heads, spear points) and other chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, pestles and grinding stones, stone debitage (i.e., the stone waste byproduct of manufacturing stone tools), net sinkers, grooved axes, bannerstones, fire cracked rocks (FCR), and ceramics. Additionally archaeological features such as house remains (i.e., post holes or post molds), hearths (i.e., cooking areas), storage/trash pits, quarry pits, and burials constitute some of the other types of archaeological remains that can be encountered.
Historic sites often contain artifacts such as ceramics, bottles, tools, weapons, jewelry, and other objects manufactured from glass, metal, and wood. Historic features include a wide variety of types including house structures, outbuildings, industrial buildings, canals, railroads, roads, dams, fortifications, middens (refuse heaps), walls, and burials/cemeteries, to mention a few examples. Archaeological sites are determined to be significant and potentially eligible for listing with the National Register of Historic Places if they are found to be relatively intact and if they yield information important in prehistory or history. The artifacts and/or the features in combination need to address questions which will contribute to a further understanding of the past. If on the other hand, the artifacts and or features are found in a disturbed and or mixed context, or the archaeological remains reflect redundant information, or if the site is undatable and non distinct, the site will probably not qualify for National Register Eligibility. The site will still require formal registration, but a recommendation of no further work will be concluded.
Excavation of a shell midden (archaeological feature) -Strathmere, NJ
Prehistoric Artifacts-Projectile Points Assorted Historic Artifacts