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Terrestrial Archaeology

Archaeological Services

Reconnaissance Survey

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines define "reconnaissance survey" as pedestrian or windshield survey with little or no subsurface testing.  As such, they provide little information about project impacts on specific cultural resources.  They are, however, occasionally required.  ESI routinely performs an initial reconnaissance survey of large project areas in order to assess field conditions and obvious disturbance within the study area.  Extensive reconnaissance surveys are conducted by automobile, by boat, or on foot.  Information acquired during a reconnaissance survey is be used to formulate a realistic project schedule and budget.

Phase I Intensive Cultural Resources Inventories.  

Intensive Phase I survey is the only reliable method for achieving maximum coverage of a study area in which cultural resources (archeological sites) may suffer adverse impact.  It is designed to locate previously unreported cultural resources and to relocate previously reported cultural resources.  In addition, it allows for assessment of sites according to NRHP criteria.  ESI has conducted intensive Phase I surveys in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas for an array of clients like the Deportments of Transportation, pipeline companies, communication companies, and government bodies such as the USDOD and the USACE.  ESI’s survey methods are in according to State and Federal guidelines.

Phase II / Terrestrial Site Testing

When NRHP criteria are applied at this stage, most archeological sites are found to be non-significant.  However, some sites that exhibit qualities of integrity may also appear to be unique or appear to represent rare types in the region (e.g. historic sites associated with the French Colonial Period, protohistoric aboriginal sites).  In order to determine whether such sites can contribute to our understanding of prehistory and/or history, formal test excavations may be required.  In reports dealing with the results of intensive survey and site definition, ESI includes detailed recommendations concerning methods that should be applied and research questions that should be asked in the course of formal site testing.  Prior to formal testing, ESI prepares a more detailed research design for the site.  At the conclusion of formal testing, an assessment of the site under investigation will be made in terms of its integrity and its ability to yield additional information that could contribute to our understanding of prehistory or history.  Possible unique qualities of the site will also be considered in the assessment.  In its technical reports concerning sites considered eligible, ESI makes detailed recommendations focused on the expected degree of adverse impact by construction.  ESI also makes recommendations concerning mitigation of that impact through further excavations.  A detailed research design and specific methodology will be presented to guide mitigative efforts.

Phase III / Archeological Data Recovery

In cases where archeological site testing demonstrates that a property is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and adverse impact cannot be avoided, archeological data recovery is necessary.  A research design should be prepared as part of site testing in the eventuality that mitigation is necessary.  The research design should include a discussion of specific issues that can be addressed by material preserved at the site.  If a research design is not available from previous work, such a document will be prepared prior to data recovery operations.  Archeological methodology utilized for data recovery generally will include the same or similar techniques as those outlined for site definition and site testing, but applied on a more extensive scale.  It is important that the methodology utilized on a particular site be designed to recover the data necessary to address the research questions identified for that site.  Thus, the excavation strategy applied at one site may not be appropriate at another.  Data recovery results will be presented in a comprehensive technical report of publishable quality.  This report will integrate results into a larger, comparative framework.

Construction Monitoring

ESI has considerable experience with construction monitoring.  Most recently, ESI has been performing monitoring of FEMA demolitions within high-probability areas in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Vermilion, Calcasieu, and Cameron parishes.  Construction monitoring is generally advisable when a known site is adjacent to a construction area or in areas where sites have not been documented but in which there is a high probability of occurrence.  A field team of one or two individuals is usually sufficient for the purpose.  Such a team can minimize disruption of the construction while accurately recording features and salvaging artifacts as they are uncovered.