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Archaeological resources are material remains of past human life that are capable of providing scientific or humanistic understandings of past human behavior, cultural adaptation, and related topics through the application of scientific or scholarly methods. Professional archaeologists conduct archaeological survey and testing to identify, collect data, and evaluate the significance of archaeological sites. Artifacts and other material specimens such as food remains and charcoal may be collected for analysis and interpretation on the age and use of the archaeological sites. Associated documentation from archaeological investigations may include maps, field notes, laboratory records, and reports. Collections of artifacts, as well as associated documentation, are archaeological resources that must be properly managed and protected in accordance with the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA); 32 CFR 229 Protection of Archaeological Resources: Uniform Regulations; and, 36 CFR 79 Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections.

Department of the Navy (DON) installations are frequently located on lands that were previously occupied and used by a variety of peoples at various time periods prior to the establishment of the naval installation. Many of the material remains from past occupation still exist today. Consistent with the requirements of Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and ARPA, it is DON policy to locate and identify these sites, which number in the tens of thousands, and to protect them and any artifacts and collections recovered from them. In accordance with Federal law and regulation, DON requires that only professionally qualified archaeologists conduct archaeological studies including surveys, testing, excavations, and data recoveries at DON installations and/or Navy-funded projects.

The Posey Site, located at Naval Surface Weapons Center, Indian Head, is the first American Indian site excavated in Maryland that dates to the Contact period (last half of 17th century). The artifacts provide evidence of intensive Indian trade with Europeans. It is significant as a "one of a kind" American Indian manufacturing and trading center in the Chesapeake Bay region. In 1995, excavations at the site attracted public interest, local news media coverage and increased attendance in several successful Navy-hosted Open Houses and Visitors' Days.

The Foxtrot Petroglyph Site is located on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in February 1995 and is one of the largest rock art sites in the vicinity. The site is unique in that petroglyphs (images created through pecking, scratching, or rubbing onto the stone surface) and pictographs (images painted onto stone) occur at the same site. Additionally, numerous styles of "rock art" are found in this one location. The site offers interesting insights into the cultural diversity present in the southern Mojave Desert over the ages.

In partnership with the University of West Florida, archaeological excavations at Naval Air Station Pensacola uncovered the buried remains of one of the earliest European settlements in Florida—the Santa Maria de Galve—first established in 1698. Fort San Carlos de Austria, a wooden palisade structure that was associated with the settlement, was also found during the excavations.

In Hawai´i the development of fishponds was a unique achievement, with its sociopolitical and economic implications in prehistoric Hawaiian culture. Due to its sheltered location, Pearl Harbor was the traditional location of several Hawaiian fishponds. One extant example of an ancient Native Hawaiian fishpond in Pearl Harbor is Okiokiolepe Fishpond, a property listed in the NRHP. Most of the interior of the pond has been filled, but the seaward coral wall still remains intact and is protected by the Navy.

Other prehistoric archaeological sites, some that are thousands of years old, have been identified on lands under the jurisdiction of Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada; Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington; and Naval Air Station North Island, California.

The DON Cultural Resources Program assists the Navy and the Marine Corps to implement policies, guidance and instructions that ensure consistent compliance with the following Federal laws that require protection and management of archaeological resources on Federal lands:

  • National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)  of 1966, as amended
    Section 106 requires that Federal agencies consider the effects of their actions on properties listed in or eligible for listing in the NRHP. The Federal Preservation Officer is the principal point-of-contact to represent DON interests in NHPA Section 106 compliance matters with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, American Indian tribes/Alaska Native villages or corporations, Native Hawaiian Organizations, the Department of Interior and other Federal agencies, and private interest organizations, as appropriate. Section 110 requires each Federal agency to establish a preservation program for the identification, evaluation, and nomination of historic properties to the NRHP; and that such properties are maintained and managed in a way that considers the preservation of their historic, archaeological, architectural, and cultural values in compliance with Section 106. The Federal Preservation Officer has DON's sole signature authority for nominations of historic properties to the NRHP.

  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979, as amended, requires a permit from the Federal land manager to excavate or remove any archaeological resource located on public or Indian lands and to carry out activities associated with such excavation or removal. ARPA permit applications must conform to the uniform regulations for the Department of Defense (DOD), 32 CFR Part 229. ARPA also requires the Federal land manager to establish a program to increase public awareness of and the need to protect archaeological resources; and several DON installations have established interpretive or educational programs through the production of brochures and signage.

  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 requires consultation and repatriation of Native American human remains and certain cultural items to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated tribes and/or Native Hawaiian Organizations. Construction activities, training operations, natural events, excavations of archaeological sites, and other activities may result in the discovery of human remains and cultural items subject to compliance with NAGPRA.

  • 36 CFR 79 Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections establishes standards, procedures and guidelines to be followed by Federal agencies to preserve collections of prehistoric and historic material remains and associated documents, recovered under NHPA and ARPA.

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