Investigation Types


Archaeological Overview 

A study that involves the synthesis of the archaeological history of investigation and culture history of a location or area. 

Architectural Documentation 

Descriptive and analytical research that documents, describes, and/or interprets detailed data on historic structures in an area, including images and floor plans.  

Architectural Survey 

These investigations include field and/or document and records reviews to gather data on the presence and type of historic structures and provide a general understanding of architectural and cultural resources in an area.  

Bioarchaeological Research 

These are studies of biological aspects of human individuals, groups, or cultural systems, including a broad range of topics describing and analyzing human physiology, osteology, diet, disease, and origins research.  

Collections Research 

A study that involves research and analysis of archaeological resources held in a museum, historical society or other repository. 


An activity that involves discussions and meetings with communities, stakeholders, and other interested parties for the purpose of describing proposed archaeological activities and eliciting their comments, perspectives and feedback. 

Data Recovery / Excavation 

These investigations include substantial field investigation of an archaeological site (or sites) involving the removal, and systematic recording of, archaeological matrix. These activities often mitigate the adverse effects of a public undertaking. This includes the description, analysis, and specialized studies of artifacts and samples recovered during excavations. 

Environment Research 

These are studies that examine aspects of the present or past natural environment to provide a context, often off-site,  for interpreting archaeological resources.  Sometimes reported in stand-alone volumes representing significant research, such investigations may include geomorphological, paleontological, or palynological work. 

Ethnographic Research 

This is research that focuses on the systematic description and analysis of cultural systems or lifeways.  These studies of contemporary people and cultures rely heavily on participant observation as well as interviews, oral histories, and review of relevant documents.  Ethnoarchaeological studies are a subset of this kind of research that investigate correlations between traditional contemporary cultures and patterns in the archaeological record.     

Ethnohistoric Research 

This kind of research includes systematic description and analysis of changes in cultural systems through time, using historical documents and oral and traditional histories.  Ethnohistoric studies typically deal with time periods of initial or early contact between different cultural systems, for example, European explorers or early colonists and indigenous cultures.  

Geophysical SurveyInvestigations that rely on ground-based instrument sensing techniques to create images and/or maps for archaeological research (e.g. magnetometry, resistivity, or ground penetrating radar).

Ground Disturbance Monitoring 

Observations and investigations conducted during any ground disturbing operation carried out for non-archaeological reasons (e.g. construction, land-leveling, wild land fire-fighting, etc.) that may reveal and/or damage archaeological deposits. 

Heritage ManagementStudies and plans related to managing or planning for the care, interpretation, preservation, or protection of archaeological resources, including collections, records, and sites.

Historic Background Research 

These are investigations of the past using written records and other documents.  Evidence from the records are compared, judged for veracity, placed in chronological or topical sequence, and interpreted in light of preceding, contemporary, and subsequent events. 

Methodology, Theory, or Synthesis 

A non-field study of archaeological theory, method or technique. These investigations may also include broadly synthetic regional studies. 

Reconnaissance / Survey 

An activity employed to gather a general impression of the nature and distribution of archaeological or cultural resources in an area. Relatively little field work is conducted in relation to the size of the research area. 

Records Search / Inventory Checking 

An activity involving the review of records, files, and other information about the sites recorded in a particular area.  Typically, such studies involve checking the site files and other archives in an agency's database, or SHPO's office, or State Archaeologist's office. 

Remote SensingInvestigations that involve the use of aerial or satellite sensor technologies to detect, describe, or classify objects on Earth (e.g. LIDAR, photographic, radar, or spectral methods).

Research Design / Data Recovery Plan 

Activities undertaken to plan and schedule future archaeological research. 

Site Evaluation / Testing 

These investigations include fieldwork undertaken to identify the archaeological resources in a given area and to collect information sufficient to evaluate the resource(s) and develop treatment recommendations. Such investigations typically determine the number, location, distribution and condition of archaeological resources. This includes the description, analysis, and specialized studies of artifacts and samples recovered during site testing.  

Site Stabilization 

An activity that involves the rehabilitation of eroding, slumping, subsiding or otherwise deteriorating archaeological resources, including structures and building materials. 

Site Stewardship Monitoring 

Visits to a site to record archaeological resources and their conditions and recover finds that may have come to light since a previous visit.  Also refers to regular or systematic monitoring and recording of the condition of a site, checking for signs of vandalism, other human intervention, and natural processes that may have damaged the resource. 

Systematic Survey 

This is an investigation employed to systematically gather data on the general presence or absence of archaeological resources, to define resource types, or to estimate the distribution of resources in an area. These studies may provide a general understanding of the resources in an area. This includes the description, analysis, and specialized studies of artifacts and samples recovered during survey.