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

EXHIBIT 5.8 Archaeological Data Recovery (Phase III) Report Format and Content Guide

Exhibit 5.8 PDF version here

Archaeological Data Recovery (Phase III) Report Format

An Archaeological Data Recovery Report, also referred to as a "Phase III Report," serves to communicate data recovery findings to a professional and public audience, rather than to secure an agreement on compliance measures between governmental agencies. Its format may be flexible to meet this goal. However, all of the Phase III work and its conclusions must be thoroughly documented, either in the body of the report or in appendices. Refer to Chapter 5 Section 5-8 for a general discussion of archaeological data recovery studies. Exhibit 2.18 contains Caltrans requirements for external distribution and publication of reports and public presentations.

Title Page

Archaeological Data Recovery (Phase III) Report Format
  • Title page
  • Summary of Findings
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Site Context
  • Research Design
  • Field and Laboratory Methods
  • Permits
  • Native American Coordination
  • Curation
  • Study Results – Prehistoric Archaeological Sites
  • Study Results – Historic-Period Archaeological Sites
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Maps
  • Tables and Other Figures
  • Appendices
  • In the title, identify the document as a Data Recovery Report, cite the primary number for the site(s), and identify the highway project by name.
  • Below the title, identify the proposed highway project by District, county, route, post miles, and expenditure authorization.
  • Provide the name, title, Professionally Qualified Staff (PQS) level, 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 a governmental 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 township and range of the study area, but not the section.
  • List the site's primary number, trinomial, and any other permanent designations.
  • Provide the date (month and year) of completion of the report at the bottom of the page.

Summary of Findings

Summarize the purpose, scope, methods, and results of the study, and its research contributions. This summary generally should be no more than one to two pages in length.

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

  • Scope of the proposed transportation project
  • Nature and purpose of the data recovery program
  • Dates of fieldwork
  • Names, titles, and qualifications of personnel participating in the study
  • Nature of any permits or permission obtained
  • Other information, as necessary, to introduce the report

Site Context

  • The discussion of site context should be limited to discussion necessary to make the report's findings understandable to its intended audience. The content of this section will vary considerably depending on whether prehistoric or historic-period archaeological resources are being addressed. For example, less discussion of the environmental context typically is required for historic-period sites, and little or no treatment of historical background is needed for prehistoric sites 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 the present-day environment, paleoenvironment, ethnography, archaeology, and history.

Research Design

  • State the core research design of the approved Phase III proposal or data recovery plan.
  • 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 analytical methods here in a general fashion.


Discuss any permits that were needed to conduct the archaeological work.

Native American Coordination

  • Describe the involvement of Native Americans.
  • Describe the actions taken if human bone, associated grave artifacts, or items of cultural patrimony were found.


Identify the facility curating the recovered cultural materials and the accession number.

Study Results -- Prehistoric Archaeological Sites

For data recovery programs addressing multiple sites, each site usually is discussed in a separate chapter or section. Chapters may be alternatively organized, in part or entirely, along topical lines (e.g., chronology, soils, features, etc.) if doing so aids in the clarity of presentation. Regardless of the organization of the report, however, the following information should be reported for each site:

A. Site Description

  • Site type (e.g., midden, rock shelter, flake scatter, etc.)
  • Site boundaries (horizontal and vertical), including the methods by which these were defined, as appropriate
  • Characteristics of the immediate environment and paleoenvironmental characteristics, if known
  • Ethnographic affiliation with documentary references, if possible
  • Previous archaeological investigations at the site
  • Chronological placement
  • Site integrity and any known disturbances

B. Natural and Cultural Stratigraphy of the Site

  • Describe the physical context of the cultural deposit(s) relative to topography and geomorphology
  • Describe the soil type, color, structure, chemistry, stratigraphy, and the relationship to surrounding soils
  • Briefly summarize the spatial patterning (horizontal and vertical) of cultural remains, and discuss this patterning in relation to landscape features and stratigraphy
  • Summarize the results of any specialized chronological studies (i.e., obsidian hydration, radiocarbon dating) useful in interpreting site stratigraphy
  • Discuss the integrity of the site deposits, including a description of observed disturbances to site deposits and the likely agents of change
  • Provide profiles of representative or interpretively important excavation units
  • Include data tables to support stratigraphic interpretations.

C. Features

  • Identify and describe all features in terms of physical location, dimensions, attributes, and associations
  • Summarize results of any specialized studies for each feature
  • Provide functional interpretations if possible

D. Artifacts

  • Provide a discussion of artifact typology for stone tools, beads, bone and ground stone tools, and historic materials
  • Describe, enumerate, and discuss the distribution of:
    • Flaked stone
    • Ground stone
    • Shell artifacts
    • Bone artifacts
    • Historic materials
  • Summarize results of special analyses included in appendices (e.g., obsidian sourcing and hydration, protein residue analysis, etc.)

E. Non-artifactual constituents

  • Describe, quantify, and discuss the distribution of:
    • Plant macrofossils, carbonized floral remains, and pollen remains.
    • Faunal remains.

F. Human bone

  • Describe the remains found, including physical condition, associations, and relationship between remains and stratigraphy
  • Describe the discovery, handling, and disposition of human bone, making reference to relevant laws and agreements
  • Identify individuals involved, including Native American Heritage Commission, local Native American representatives, Most Likely Descendant, County Coroner, landowners, and other interested parties
  • Include photographs and illustrations only if such recordation and reporting is approved by the Most Likely Descendant and local Native American representatives

G. Site summary

Summarize the sections above.

Study Results – Historic-Period Archaeological 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
  • Description and enumeration of artifacts 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

Summary and Conclusions

  • Present investigation results as they relate to the specific research questions, hypotheses, or study goals presented in the research design. Follow the research design structure.
  • Discuss results in terms of general research objectives.
  • Place results in a regional context. Note contributions to understanding of regional prehistory or history.

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(s): These maps should be scaled to show detail, at least 1": 200'. An aerial photograph, detailed engineering/contour map, etc. may be used as a base map. For each site, 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 (APE) and Area of Direct Impact (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


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

Peer Review and Approval

Caltrans PQS certified at the Principal Investigator level must peer review the draft Phase III Report 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 at the Principal Investigator level may review the final Phase III Report for approval, which the EBC approves. The Caltrans PQS or consultant who prepares the Phase III Report signs, dates and includes his/her discipline, PQS level (as applicable) and District/Headquarters or affiliation. The Caltrans PQS reviewing the Phase III Report for approval likewise signs, dates, and includes his/her PQS discipline, level and District. Finally, the EBC approves the Phase III Report by signing and dating the document. See Chapter 5 Section 5-8.8 for more detailed information.