Maine Archaeological Phases
- Phase I reconnaissance-level survey: This stage of survey often has two separate components and can be further subdivided as Phase IA and Phase IB.
- At the Phase IA level, survey is primarily at the documentary level, as archaeologists examine state site inventories; maps; local histories; and primary documents such as deeds, probate records, and aerial photographs. This first phase of study permit the archaeologist to determine whether any known or potential sites are within the project area. Archaeologists review state records for existing (known) archaeological sites in the project area; within the river drainage; or analogous settings. They also conduct cartographic analysis (looking at landforms, soils, land use features); review historic maps, photographs, and local secondary sources. A critical component of the Phase IA assess is a site inspection to search for surface evidence of sites (artifacts or features) and to evaluate the amount of disturbance that has taken place. The final product is an assessment of high, moderate, or low archaeological sensitivity. If a project area is evaluated with low sensitivity for both Native American and Euroamerican archaeological resources, then no further archaeological survey is recommended. If high or moderate, archaeologists will then proceed to the next level of survey.
- Intensive Archaeological Investigation (Phase IB): In areas of known or suspected sites, archaeologists conduct Phase IB survey to confirm whether archaeological resources are present or absent within an area of potential effect (APE). Archaeologists conduct fieldwork and excavate shovel test pits (50 cm by 50 cm or approximately 2 ft square), to look for artifacts or features indicating that humans had previously lived in the project APE. If we find nothing, then the archaeological component is completed. If we do find something, we make a recommendation about whether the developer can avoid it (by moving buildings, roads, septic systems, detention ponds to one side or out of the way of the archaeological site), or if the site will require a Phase II evaluation.
- Site Eligibility Survey (Phase II): Once a site has been found, archaeologists must determine whether it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Listing on the National Register must satisfy one of four criteria (A, B, C, or D) that are enumerated by the Secretary of the Interior, and which must be approved by a panel of reviewers from the State Historic Preservation Office. Listing must meet stringent standards, so the archaeology conducted to answer questions of significance requires larger areas to be excavated. At this level, we often excavate in 1-m-square test units (3.3 ft by 3.3 ft) or larger areas, and we excavate considerably more horizontal area than in the Phase IB survey. We must address questions of site size, activity loci, subsistence, seasonality, trade systems, or other research questions about past lifeways.
- Data Recovery (Phase III): When a site is determined to be eligible for the National Register and cannot be avoided by a proposed undertaking, archaeologists must conduct the most intensive level of archaeological survey, the data recovery. This phase of work is intended to mitigate the effect of losing the resource, and clients can expect that as much as 10-20% of a site will need to be excavated in order to capture as much information about the past, before the undertaking will destroy it. Data recovery projects require the excavation of large horizontal areas, with a particular focus on features. Features often contain high quantities of artifacts (lithic debitage at Native sites, homestead refuse at Euroamerican sites), which must be processed and analyzed. Data recovery projects are built around specific research questions that may be answered in terms of specialized sampling and analysis (e. g., faunal, floral, carbon-14, minimum vessel counts, lithic attribute studies).