Surprise it’s Soil Science: an unwritten requirement for NY CRM

By Chris

Geomorphology or Soil Science on archaeology sites is an incredible new tool for research into the age and origin of even the minutest layer of soils within a prehistoric or older historic site. However, the intense education (PhD) and limited folks in the area with these skills and availability make it difficult (costly and slow) to involve a geomorphologist on every archaeological survey. This was what we were facing at the end of 2007 and grappling with throughout 2008.
As a result I was tempted to send the following letter to SHPO last winter but the pressure from other Archaeology companies in New York like HAZEx seems to have fixed the problem, at least temporarily. My letter was to be sent regarding the existing Phase IA literature search and archaeological sensitivity assessment guidelines. The meat of the letter follows:
I am seeking clarification from the New York State Historic Preservation Office on a particular portion of the Phase IA literature search and archaeological sensitivity assessment requirements as stated with the Phase I Archaeological Report Format Requirements released in April of 2005. It is my understanding that a Phase IA report can be conducted by a member of the Registry of Professional Archaeologists meeting education and experience requirements for historic and prehistoric sites analysis. Could you please provide me with the specific qualifications necessary for archaeologists to conduct all aspects of literature research and sensitivity assessments in New York State?

I also have a question about Part 2-E-3-e of the Phase IA requirements. It is my understanding that this involves literature and technical research into existing soil and geological information and deep testing with auger borings within a project area in its representative topographies which have a potential to contain buried surfaces. Could you please provide me with the current requirements for a thorough assessment of the “potential for colluvial, alluvial or other deeply buried soils”? Does this implicitly include Holocene deposits?

Could you also provide a list of the qualifications required to conduct geomorphological or soil science analysis within New York State for Phase I, Phase II and Phase III archaeological analyses on either historic or prehistoric sensitive areas/sites.

I had the chance to talk with several colleagues during the NYSAA and NYAC meeting in Rochester this April and I learned that SHPO doesn’t have answers to my questions nor does it have the requested requirements codified. It seems they must be having a lot of trouble holding archaeologists to the soil science standards of other states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

But HAZEx is ready to be on the frontline of new techniques in archaeology. Despite this apparent hiatus in the geomorphology requirement HAZEx is already working closely with two geomorphology companies Metapeake Soil Science, Inc and Axis Environmental, Inc. on both the preliminary research and testing phases of archaeology. We need these business relationships to provide greater information about the origin of our prehistoric and historic soils and to keep working in cultural resource management throughout the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Mid-west.
We will continue to use these specialists when the need arrises and now when the SHPO calls just as we have done since 2003 when I worked with Dr. John Foss and on the last four projects with Dr. John Wah in the Northeast.
Thanks for reading. For comments or questions email me at Chris@HAZExplorations.com

Categories : New Archaeology

Leave a Comment