Phase II Investigation Field Standards

Goals of Phase II Investigations

  • The goal of Phase II archaeological investigation is to determine if a site is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under Criteria A, B, C, or D.  The eligibility for most archaeological sites is determined under Criterion D, which requires that a property “has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.” 
  • Investigators should consult the five steps for Criterion D evaluation under the National Park Service guidelines. In most cases, Phase II testing is done to determine a site’s eligibility for the NRHP and not to exhaust the research potential of a site.  Information on the NRHP Criteria of Evaluation can be found in The National Register of Historic Places Brochure provided by the National Park Service.
  • Investigators should inform the Louisiana Division of Archaeology about their schedule of fieldwork for Phase II projects in order to provide the opportunity for Division personnel to visit the site(s).
  • At the completion of a Phase II project, each site tested must be assessed as eligible or not eligible with the supporting documentation provided in the report.  The assessment must also clearly indicate which NRHP criterion was used in determining the site’s eligibility. 
  • A site update form must be submitted to the Louisiana Division of Archaeology that describes the results of Phase II investigations at each site tested on the project.
  • All Phase II projects conducted on State lands must obtain a Cultural Resource Investigation Permit from the Division before initiating fieldwork.

Field Methodology for Phase II Archaeological Testing

  • Given the diversity of sites examined in Phase II investigations, considerable professional judgment in the strategy developed to address the above goals is expected.  This strategy must be clearly explained and justified in the report.  Generally, however, Phase II investigations involve such endeavors as excavation units, site mapping, feature recordation, and artifact analysis, among other techniques.
  • The testing program must also provide sufficient information about the character and distribution of cultural deposits at a site to allow the development of a realistic Phase III mitigation/data recovery plan should that become necessary.
  • In order to address the eligibility criteria, an investigation must assess the integrity of archaeological deposits, the degree of preservation of the cultural resources, the presence (or absence) of features, the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the site, and the cultural components present that contribute to the archaeological record of Louisiana.
  • The field methodology for Phase II testing of an archaeological site should address the appropriate elements of the Louisiana Comprehensive State Archaeological Plan (Smith et al. 1983).  The Division recommends that investigators develop a testing plan for Phase II assessment after consultation with the Division of Archaeology, but such consultation is not required.
  • The results of Phase I shovel tests, remote sensing, cores, augers and trenches are important guides for the placement of test units and must be considered during Phase II investigations.
  • Investigators are encouraged to consult with the Division concerning anticipated deviations from these guidelines prior to beginning field work.  Any agreed revised strategies must be documented via email or letter and thoroughly discussed and justified in the Phase II investigation report. 

Phase II Archaeological Site Mapping

  • Investigators conducting Phase II investigations must generate an appropriately detailed project map, using the metric system, of a site showing the locations of all excavation units and their spatial relationship to other surface and subsurface elements of a site, including topography when applicable.
  • All maps must have a north arrow, a scale and present a grid.  If a site grid deviates from magnetic or geographic north, the angle of deviation must be shown on the map’s legend.
  • Investigators must use a GPS device to locate four UTM grid locations and the site’s datum point during Phase II investigations.  These UTM coordinates will facilitate the use of a site map in the Division’s GIS database.    

Phase II Excavations

  • Archaeological excavation units, most frequently measuring 1 x 1 m, are the most common component of Phase II testing.  Units must be excavated in a professional manner that records the vertical stratigraphy of a site.  This usually includes the excavation of units by arbitrary levels and/or natural levels.
  • The size and placement of test units at an archaeological site are crucial to provide information to determine the site’s eligibility for the NRHP.  The location of these units must be appropriate to the site, with consideration of cultural features, artifact concentrations, vegetation, topography, structures, and other landscape items.
  • In general, one test unit is insufficient to determine the eligibility of an archaeological site for the NRHP.  Therefore, Phase II testing in Louisiana must consist of at least two excavated test units.  Again, Phase II testing is normally done to determine a site’s eligibility for the NRHP and not to exhaust the research potential of a site. 
  • Phase II archaeological testing may also involve additional shovel testing, mechanical stripping, trenching, or other techniques that must be explained in reports on the investigation.
  • The measurements of all Phase II archaeological investigations conducted must be in the metric system.  Other measurement systems may be used or recorded, but metric equivalents must also be provided.
  • Phase II test units must be located on a grid system referenced to a site datum.  Vertical control of all excavations units must be maintained as they are dug.  


Phase II Recordation

  • Phase II projects must have at least one overview photograph of the site being tested in order to record the setting and field conditions.
  • Photographs of appropriate excavation unit walls and floors, as well as cultural features, must be recorded in the field.  The photographs must include a menu board, when appropriate, that contains, at a minimum, the date, site number, excavation unit, and object being recorded.  Photographs must also include a scale and north arrow.  If the excavation being photographed is too large or small to accommodate a menu board notation, this information should be recorded and presented in the caption of the photograph in a report or item curated with the Division.
  • Field illustrations must reliably record such items as stratigraphy, artifacts, features, etc. in a precise manner that provides location information about the excavation units.  These illustrations must also provide compass orientation and scale.  Munsell Soil Color designations must be used for all soil colors in illustrations.
  • All soils excavated in test units must be screened through ¼ inch, or finer, mesh.  Investigators must justify in the reports on Phase II investigations why certain portions of a test unit (e.g., gravel deposits, areas of disturbance, bioturbation, etc) were not screened in the Phase II report.
  • The location of all special samples such as radiocarbon material, etc., must be recorded in the field.
  • Investigators must record the provenience of all cultural materials obtained during Phase II testing and maintain the separation of artifacts by provenience.

Human Remains

  • If prior work in a project area identified human remains, or indicated there is a high probability that human remains will be encountered during subsequent work, an Unmarked Burial Sites Permit must be obtained from the Division of Archaeology prior to beginning fieldwork.  The permit request must include a proposal detailing the process to be followed in the field and in the lab when human remains are encountered.  If the prior work has determined the remains will likely be Native American, consultation with the appropriate Tribes must be initiated as part of the permit process and their concerns incorporated into the permit request.  If the remains are anticipated to be non-Native American, the efforts to identify descendents must be described and the descendents concerns incorporated into the permit request.
  • In the event human remains should be encountered during a Phase II project, work must stop immediately in the vicinity of the uncovered human remains.  Notice regarding the discovery must be made to the appropriate local law enforcement agency and the appropriate Parish Coroner's Office following the provisions of the Louisiana Unmarked Human Burials Site Preservation Act (R.S. 8:671-681 et seq.).  The State Archaeologist must be notified within 72 hours of the discovery.  Within 24-hours of notification, the State Archaeologist shall notify any Indian tribe that have indicated interest in the area where the discovery of human remains was made.  The local law enforcement officials shall assess the nature and age of the human skeletal remains. If the coroner determines that the human skeletal remains are older than 50 years of age, the Louisiana Division of Archaeology has jurisdiction over the remains and will work out appropriate plans among property owners, appropriate Indian groups, living descendents, and other interested parties to insure compliance with existing state laws.  No remains will be removed until jurisdiction is established and the appropriate permits obtained from the Division.

Field Collection Standards for Phase II Archaeological Testing

  • Investigators must retain all non-bulk cultural material recovered during a Phase II investigation of an archaeological site.
  • Investigators must separate all archaeological materials by their provenience for curation.
  • Investigators can count or weigh bulk materials such as brick, mortar, plaster, shell, and gravel in the field or lab with only a representative 10% sample retained.  Bulk material samples submitted for curation may not exceed 250 grams (10.5 oz.) each without prior approval by the Division of Archaeology.
  • Investigators must retain all field notes, field forms, photographs, and other documentation for curation.
  • Please see our Curation Standards for more specific information about curation standards.
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