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Last Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012 11:30 AM

EXHIBIT 5.5 Archaeological Evaluation Report (Phase II) Format and Content Guide

Exhibit 5.5 PDF version here

Archaeological Evaluation Report (Phase II) Format

The Archaeological Evaluation Report (AER) provides the basis for determining whether a site is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) or is a historical resource under CEQA. It also may document whether the proposed project will adversely affect eligible properties. Refer to Chapter 5 Section 5-6 for a general discussion of archaeological evaluation (Phase II) studies.

Title Page

Archaeological Evaluation (Phase II) Report Format
  • Title page
  • Summary of Findings (Abstract)
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Site Context
  • Research Design
  • Field and Laboratory Methods
  • Study Results
  • National Register Eligibility
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Maps
  • Tables and Other Figures
  • Appendices
  • In the title, identify the document as an Archaeological Evaluation Report, and cite the primary number and trinomial for the site(s).
  • Below the title, identify the proposed highway project and reference the District, county, route, post miles, and expenditure authorization.
  • Provide the name, title, Professionally Qualified Staff (PQS) level as described in Section 106 PA Attachment 1, and location of the report author(s). The senior author is to sign the title page of the report.
  • Provide the name, title, and location of the District Environmental Branch Chief (EBC) for whom the report was prepared. Approval of the report is documented by the EBC's signature on the title page.
  • If an agency permit was required, provide the name of the permitting agency and the permit number.
  • Cite the USGS topographic quadrangle depicting the study area.
  • List the site's primary number, trinomial, and any other permanent designations.
  • The date (month and year) of completion of the report appears at the bottom of the page.

Summary of Findings (Abstract)

  • Summarize the purpose, scope, methods, and results of the study.
  • Briefly discuss the National Register significance of the site, and the location of site boundaries in relation to the proposed highway project.

Table of Contents

List the major proposal sections, subheadings, appendices, tables, and figures, with page numbers.


Provide information as appropriate.


Concisely describe or discuss the

  • Proposed highway project
  • Nature and purpose of the archaeological investigation
  • Dates of fieldwork
  • Names, titles, and qualifications of the supervisory personnel participating in the study
  • Any permits or permission obtained
  • Arrangements for curation of the collection
  • Disposition of any human bone, associated grave goods, or sacred objects
  • Scope and results of Native American consultation and monitoring
  • Other information, as necessary, to introduce the report, such as a brief history of the proposed project as it pertains to the site

Site Context

  • Place the site in the regional context for which the research design was developed and within which the cultural remains are interpreted.
  • Provide pertinent information on present‑day environment, paleoenvironment, ethnography, archaeology, and history.
  • The content of this section will vary significantly depending on whether prehistoric or historic-period archaeological resources are evaluated (e.g., little or no treatment of paleoenvironment or ethnography for historic period sites).

Research Design

  • State the core research design from the (previous) Archaeological Evaluation Proposal.
  • If unexpected discoveries were made during fieldwork, the research design may be substantially revised; identify these changes and address as appropriate.

Field and Laboratory Methods

  • Describe the methods and techniques used in the field and laboratory.
  • If detailed discussions of analytical methods are contained in appendices, present the methods of analysis in a general fashion here in the main text.

Study Results

Prehistoric Sites

In reports addressing multiple sites, each site usually is discussed in a separate chapter. However, chapters alternatively may be organized in part or entirely along topical lines (e.g., chronology, soils, features, etc.), if doing so aids in clarity of presentation.

Describe in detail the characteristics of the site and their interpretation. Discuss modifications to the interpretation of the site's chronology, function, and affiliation as a result of these studies.

Describe and discuss:

  • Previous archaeological investigations at the site
  • Site type (e.g., midden, rock shelter, flake scatter)
  • Chronological placement
  • Ethnographic affiliation, with any documentary references
  • Site boundaries and extent (horizontal and vertical), including the methods by which these were defined
  • Characteristics of the immediate environment, and paleoenvironmental characteristics, if known
  • Site integrity, and any known disturbances
  • Site deposit (soil types, chemistry, color, stratigraphy), with profiles of representative or interpretively important excavation units
  • Features; including their locations, dimensions, attributes, and associations
  • Artifacts, including description of the typologies used, with sufficient detail for their replication and for evaluation of their interpretive relevance, and discussion of artifact distributions by class/material (e.g., flaked stone, ground stone, shell artifacts, bone artifacts, and historic materials) and type
  • Results of special analyses (evidence on manufacture and use, obsidian sourcing, obsidian hydration, protein residues, etc.)
  • Non‑artifactual constituents (faunal and floral remains)
  • Human bone, including its physical condition, associations (including photographs and drawings, if appropriate), circumstances of discovery, and handling and disposition (making reference to relevant laws and agreements, and to the individuals involved, including the county coroner, Native American Heritage Commission, Most Likely Descendant, other local Native American representatives, landowner, and other interested parties)

Historic Sites

Information in the site reports must reflect its status as a historical archaeological site, as follows:

  • Site type (e.g., homestead, mining camp, urban-commercial), including historical references
  • Site boundaries (horizontal and vertical), including the methods by which these were defined
  • Pertinent aspects of historical and archaeological background studies
  • Environment
  • Known disrupting influences/intrusions (e.g., roads, vandalism) that have changed the site’s condition and/or affected its integrity
  • Summary data gathered on the internal characteristics of the site (e.g., stratigraphy, artifact classes and their distribution, structural remains and activity areas, temporal affiliation[s])
  • Previous archaeological investigations at the site
  • Artifacts should be described and enumerated by functional class and material type. The period of manufacture and use should be discussed, as well as any maker’s marks or other attributes contributing to the identification of temporal affiliation

National Register Eligibility

Address the applicability of each of the National Register criteria to the site (discussions of criteria that are clearly not applicable may be brief, but always should be included with a brief explanation as to why the criterion is not applicable). Exhibit 4.2 contains additional guidance on information what is required to be in determinations of eligibility.

  • If the site appears to be eligible, provide an explanation of how the site is eligible under the applicable National Register Criteria.
  • If the site appears to be eligible under criterion A, B, or C, make sure to discuss the role of setting as an element that contributes to the site's eligibility.
  • Discuss site integrity as it relates to each selected criterion.
  • Discuss the range of cultural materials present at the site and the range of data likely to be generated by future study. Some classes of data may have been documented by previous investigations, while others may be inferred, based on knowledge of similar sites. Provide the rationale and references supporting such inferences.
  • Identify the chronological components that contribute to the site's significance, as well as those that do not contribute (if applicable).
  • Identify and provide justification for contributing and non‑contributing areas of the site, and indicate whether the contributing areas are within the proposed project's Area of Direct Impact (ADI).
  • Discuss the relationship between the data available at the site and important research topics that the data might address. Minor amounts of data on a wide range of topics may contribute to the site's eligibility. Discuss the importance of the research topics within the broader regional perspective.
  • If the site appears to be eligible, provide a summary paragraph that contains the name of the resource, the applicable criteria with a brief statement as to how the site meets those criteria, period and level (local, state, national) of significance. This summary paragraph is what will be used in effect documents, as well as environmental documents.

Summary and Conclusions

  • Briefly summarize the results of the investigation, in terms of management and research goals.
  • Note contributions to the understanding of regional prehistory or history.
  • Indicate conclusions concerning National Register eligibility and project effects.

References Cited

  • List all references cited in the report.
  • Bibliographic format should follow the most recent style guide for American Antiquity.


All maps should display the District, county, route, post miles, and expenditure authorization, and should include north arrows and graphic scales.

  • Study Vicinity Map: Point to the vicinity of the study area on a county or District map.
  • Study Location Map: Depict the site location on the appropriate USGS topographic map.
  • Study Site Map: This map should be scaled to show detail, at least 1": 200'. An aerial photograph, detailed engineering/contour map, etc. can be used as a base map. Show the site boundary, topography, modern features, location of cultural surface features and all study units (e.g., excavation units, surface scrapes, auger holes, etc.), and the pertinent portion of the project's Area of Potential Effects and ADI.

Tables and Other Figures

Incorporate tables and figures within the text, as appropriate, to document the work performed, its results, and its interpretation.

Tables should summarize:

  • Units excavated (their size, depth and volume)
  • Horizontal and vertical distributions of artifacts, ecofacts, and features
  • Interpretively significant attributes of artifacts, ecofacts, and features
  • Other information as appropriate

Information presented in the tables should not be repeated in the text, except as required for interpretive discussions.

Figures may include:

  • Sidewall profiles
  • Feature plans
  • Graphs and charts
  • Artifact drawings

Photographs may show:

  • General overviews of the site and its relation to the highway
  • Study techniques and/or field methods
  • Site features
  • Excavation sidewalls
  • Artifacts

Other Graphics

It may be useful to include additional photographs, engineering cross sections, as-builts or other materials to illustrate project area conditions and support the findings.


  • Specialized Analysis Reports
  • Updated Site Record, as well as previous site records

Peer Review and Approval

Caltrans PQS certified at the Principal Investigator level or higher must peer review the draft AER following the guidelines in Exhibit 2.14: Guidelines for Peer Review of Cultural Resources Reports. Peer reviewers’ names should be kept on record and comments retained in the project files. Chapter 2 Section 2-5.5 and Exhibit 2.11 Table C contain additional guidance on peer reviews and reviews for approvals.

Only Caltrans PQS may review AERs for approval, which the EBC approves. The Caltrans PQS or consultant who prepares the AER signs, dates and includes his/her discipline, PQS level (as applicable) and District/Headquarters or affiliation. The Caltrans PQS reviewing the AER for approval likewise signs, dates, and includes his/her PQS discipline, level and District. Finally, the EBC approves the AER by signing and dating the document. See Chapter 5 Section 5-6.9 for more detailed information.