Cultural Resources Glossary

The following definitions were drawn from a variety of sources such as the Introduction to Federal Projects and Historic Preservation Law (ACHP 1991), a Section 106 training publication. Additional Glossaries are found in OPNAVINST 5090.1A,OPNAVINST 5090.1B and NAVFACINST 11010.70A.



NOP – Q – RSTU – V – W – X – Y – Z



Accession/Accessioning – The formal and legal documentation of an incoming collection (artifacts and associated documents). 

Accession File – File that contains the documentation for each incoming collection; this should also include the documentation of any deaccession.

Accession Number – A unique number assigned to a collection; this is an identifier, not a description.

Acid-Free – Contains a pH of 7.0 or higher; an alkaline.

Acquisition/Acquisitioning – A process to obtain custody of an object or collection that involves the physical transfer of the item.

Active Stabilization – Interventive treatment action taken to increase the stability or durability of the object.  See Conservation.

Adverse Effect – Once an agency has determined if an undertaking will have an effect on an historic property, it must determine if that effect will be adverse or not.  An undertaking is considered to have an adverse effect on an historic property when it may diminish the integrity of the property’s location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association .  Adverse effects can include physical destruction or alteration of all or part of the property, isolation of the property from its setting, addition of incompatible visual, audible, or atmospheric elements, demolition by neglect, and transfer of the property.

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) – The independent Federal agency established by title II of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to advise the President and Congress on historic preservation matters, review the policies and programs of Federal agencies to improve their consistency with the purposes of the Act, to provide comments to Federal agencies on their undertakings that will affect historic properties, conduct training and educational programs, encourage public interest in preservation, and to carry out Section 106 review.

Allometry – The study of the relative growth of a part of an organism in relation to the growth of the whole.  Applied in faunal studies to estimate the size of the living organism from its bones. 

AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) – A method of obtaining radiocarbon dates from samples that are far tinier than that needed for standard C-14 dating.

American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) The Act states that it will be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians their inherent rights of freedom to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions. These rights include, but are not limited to, access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and freedom to worship through ceremony and traditional rites. 

Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 (AHPA) An Act which provides for the preservation of historical and archaeological data that might otherwise be irreparably lost or destroyed as a result of flooding, the building of access roads, the erection of workmen’s communities, the relocation of railroads and highways, and any alteration of the terrain caused by Federal construction projects or Federally funded licensed activities or programs. The Act also requires Federal agencies to notify the Secretary of the Interior of any dam construction. Furthermore, AHPA stipulates that if archaeological resources are found, the agency must provide for their recovery or salvage.  The law applies to any agency whenever it receives information that a direct or Federally assisted activity could cause irreparable harm to prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resources.

Archaeological Resource – Any material remains of past human life or activities that are capable of contributing to understanding the past.  Material is normally considered an “Archaeological Resource” if it is more than 50 years old. According to ARPA an archaeological resource is any “material remains of past human life or activities which are of archaeological interest, as determined under uniform regulations.”  ARPA and its implementing regulations (see 32 CFR 229) go on to provide an extensive list of examples, and excludes from treatment as archaeological resources all such items that are less than 100 years old. Since such items are addressed under other laws, such as NHPA, the term “archaeological resource” is used broadly in this guideline to apply to all material remains of human activity that have archaeological interest, as well as documents and other records associated with such remains.

Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) The Act which preserves and protects resources and sites on Federal and Indian lands by prohibiting the removal, sale, receipt, or interstate transportation of archaeological resources obtained illegally (i.e., without permits) from public or Indian lands. The Act authorizes Federal agencies to issue permits for investigations of archeological resources on public lands under the agency’s control and provides the procedures for doing so. The purpose of the ARPA permit process is to ensure that individuals and organizations wishing to work with Federal resources have the necessary professional qualifications, and Federal standards and guidelines for research and curation are followed. The process allows the SHPO to review and comment on ARPA permit applications. The ARPA permit replaces the permit required by the Antiquities Act of 1906

Archaeological Samples – Samples recovered for specialized analysis; i.e., column samples, feature fill, organic material, pollen samples, sediment cores, soil samples.

Archeological Survey – The compilation of information regarding an archeological resources in a particular area or site.  Research designs might include evaluation of potential for resources as in a reconnaissance survey; location and delineation of resources as in an intensive level Phase I survey; or evaluation of eligibility of resources for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), as in an intensive level Phase II survey.    

Architectural Resource – The portion of cultural resources that consists of built resources including buildings, structures, objects, landscape planning, and landscape design.

Architectural Survey – The compilation of information regarding architectural resources, including overview surveys which evaluate the potential for the presence of resources, and intensive level surveys which locate, document, and evaluate resources in terms of their potential of eligibility for nomination in the National Register.

Archives – A repository containing historical records, often unique or unpublished, that are intended for long-term preservation; the term may also apply to that which is located in the Archives.

Archival Materials – Materials that are intended to be long lasting due to their high chemical stability, neutral or slightly alkaline pH, good aging properties and inertness.

Archival Original – The oldest surviving example.

Archival Quality (archival boxes) – According to Griset and Kodack (1999:156), “materials that have been manufactured of inert materials specifically designed to extend the life of artifacts and records by protecting them from agents of deterioration.”

Archivist – Trained and educated professional who is engaged in the administration and management of archives and manuscript collections.

Artifact – An item that has been created, used, or modified by humans; i.e., tools, personal effects, weapons, clothing.

Artifact By-products – Cultural items created as a result of artifact use or production; i.e., lithic debitage, bead blanks, broken tools, shell middens.

Assemblage – A group of artifacts that represent a cultural or archeological unit.

Baulk – Unexcavated "walls" that can be left between units to preserve stratigraphic information.

B.C.E.  – Before the Common Era.

Biface – A stone artifact flaked on both faces.

Bioturbation – Changes to the nature, form, and arrangement of archaeological deposits and sediments as a result of biological activity in the ground. This includes root action from plants and trees as well as animal activity at many different scales from large burrowing mammals through earthworms and insects.

Botanical Remains – Items of or relating to plant material; i.e., pollen, seeds, plants.

B.P. – Before Present.  As a convention, 1950 is the year from which B.P. dates are calculated.

Building – Any construction intended to shelter any form of human activity. Examples include houses, administrative offices, and barracks.

Built Environment – The human-constructed environment, made up of any one or more of the following: Building, Structure, Designed Landscape, Fixed object in the landscape, or District.

C-14 (or 14C)– Through radiocarbon dating, the relative ratios of carbon 14 (C-14) to non-radioactive isotopes of carbon can ascertain the approximate age of an organic object (e.g., bone, charcoal, shell).

Catalog – A list which includes descriptive details, including provenience information that is arranged in a systematic manner.

Catalog Record – A finding aid containing descriptive summaries of items or sets of records; may also include location information for the collection. 

Categorization of the Built Environment (CBE) – The concept of prioritizing and assigning a historic property to a specific treatment category based upon a distinct set of criteria taking into account integrity, relative significance, and contemporary value.

Cellulose Nitrate Film – A type of film used for motion pictures and photographic negatives between about 1890 and 1955; it is self-destructive/combustible and must be stored in a specialized freezer.

Chert – A fine-grained rock, similar to flint, which was used by Native Americans to make projectile points and other stone tools.  Chert can form in many ways, but in Florida most chert is formed by the replacement of limestone by silica.

cmbs (centimeters below surface) – Depth measurements based on the relationship to the present ground surface.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) – The Federal regulations which specifically address cultural resources management, and which are referenced within these guidelines are:

32 CFR 229 “Protection of Archaeological Resources: Uniform Regulations”

36 CFR 60 “National Register of Historic Places”

36 CFR 79 “Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections”

36 CFR 800 “Protection of Historic Properties”

43 CFR 10 “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Regulations”

Collecting Plan – Part of a repository’s acquisition policy that specifically details what the repository is going to collect in order to fulfill its mission, goals and scope of collections.

Collection – Material remains that are excavated or removed during a survey, excavation or other study of a prehistoric or historic resource, and associated records (notes, documents, reports, etc.).

Collection Assessment – The process of evaluating a collection for the purpose of documenting its condition, compliance with curation guidelines, and determining courses of action regarding its care and management.

Collection Policy – A written statement that defines a repository’s policies and procedures for managing acquisitions, deaccessions, incoming and outgoing loans, etc.

Collections Management – The management and care of collections with concern for their long-term physical well being and safety, specifically in regards to meeting curation guidelines.

Collections Manager – Trained and educated professional responsible for any and all aspects of collections care.

Compliance Agreements – An agreement entered into by a Federal agency with a state, another Federal agency, a certified local government, or an Indian tribe that outlines the cultural resource responsibilities to be carried out by the agency relative to the agency’s legislation.  Examples of such agreements include contracts, MOAs, and PAs pursuant to NHPA and Comprehensive Agreements pursuant to NAGPRA.  Such agreements carry the same weight of law as legally binding contracts.

Component – A cultural deposit at a single archaeological site representative of a local culture, usually including more than one individual “occupation” or level; most sites have multiple components.

Composite Artifact – An artifact made of multiple materials; i.e., a leather shoe with metal grommets and brass tack nails and rubber sole.

Comprehensive Agreement – As set forth in 43 CFR 10, an agreement entered into by a Federal agency with Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations that are affiliated with specific human remains and cultural items.  It addresses all agency activities that could result in the intentional excavation or inadvertent discovery of such remains and items, and results in a process for carrying out the requirements of the regulations, including consultation procedures, determination of custody, and treatment and disposition of human remains and cultural items.

Condition Report – An accurate, descriptive report of an object’s or document’s state of preservation; also referred to as condition assessment.

Conservation – Measures taken to preserve and prolong the life of an object or document and its physical, historic and scientific integrity as long as possible in its original form; conservation methods vary depending on the material and fragility of the object. 

Conservator – Trained and educated professional in the theoretical and practical aspects of preventive conservation; often specializes in a particular material or method of conservation.

Consolidation – Reconstructing an artifact from several pieces (possibly of differing proveniences) using an archival quality, reversible adhesive; i.e., reconstructing a prehistoric vessel or historic plate.

Consultation – The act of seeking the opinions and recommendations of the SHPO, ACHP, and other appropriate parties on undertakings affecting National Register listed or eligible properties.

Context – The relationship of an artifact or cultural remains to the surrounding artifacts or remains and to the situation in which they were found.

Contributing – A building, site, structure, or object within a Historic District, which adds to the values or qualities of that District because it was present during the Period of Significance and possesses historic integrity or independently meets the NRHP Criteria.

Cross–section – Vertical view of a feature or structure achieved by digging half of it at a time, or by trenching; usually done to draw a profile.

Cultural Item – As defined by NAGPRA, cultural items are human remains (skeletal material, mummies, etc.), funerary objects (objects used in, or reasonably assumed to have been used in the funeral rite or ritual, or associated with the human remains, either at the time of death or later), sacred objects (specific ceremonial objects which are needed by Native American religious leaders for the practice of their traditional religions), and objects of cultural patrimony (those with on-going historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture).

Cultural Landscape A geographical area, including both cultural and natural resources, and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values.  Examples include lands that reflect historic farming practices, and Native American sacred lands.  Compare to “designed landscapes”.

Cultural Property – Objects, collections, specimens, structures or sites identified as having artistic, historic, scientific, religious or social significance.

Cultural Resource Any archaeological sites, historic structures, buildings, landscapes, objects and districts, and traditional cultural properties that illustrate the historical development of our nation. These resources are distributed across the landscape as a reflection of prehistoric and historic processes and events and are nonrenewable resources.  Cultural resources also may be defined  as historic properties as defined in NHPA, archaeological resources defined in ARPA, Native American cultural sites as defined in NAGPRA, and associated documents and records, or the equivalents of such types in an overseas (OCONUS) context.  The term also can embrace historical documents, museum items, and other such resource types that are significant to the culture of a nation, community, or group.

Curation Responsibility for the care and preservation of objects or collections; specific guidelines for proper treatment and preservation measures may be found in 36 CFR 79.

Curation Agreement – Legal document/contract regarding the curation of a collection; details responsibilities of both parties, ownership, and curation guidelines.

Curator – Trained and educated professional responsible for the care, exhibition, research and enhancement of repository collections.

Daguerrotype – An image made on a light-sensitive, silver-coated metallic plate.

Data Recovery Procedures necessary to fulfill mitigation requirements of Section 106 of the NHPA. They are taken in response to an undertaking of adverse effect upon an archeological resource eligible to the National Register.  The procedures of data recovery are defined by the MOA and the research design.

Dating Sample – A sample collected for the purpose of dating a site; i.e., AMS, 14C/radiocarbon, dendrochronological samples.

Datum – A fixed reference point on an archaeological site from which measurements are taken. A horizontal datum is a base measuring point used as the origin of rectangular coordinate systems for mapping and for maintaining excavation provenience.  A vertical datum is a base measurement point or zero above ground surface from which all elevations or heights are referred.  

Deaccession – The legal, permanent removal of an object, document, specimen or collection from a repository; this process and all deaccessioned items must be fully documented.

Dead Storage – Storage of objects that are not actively used, typically in off-site facilities where collections are relatively inaccessible.

Debitage – The by-products or waste materials left over from the manufacture of stone tools.

Deposition Any of the various processes by which artifacts move from active use to an archaeological context such as loss, disposal, abandonment, burial, etc.  Also refers to the accumulation of sediments within a site. 

Designed Landscape – A parcel of land deliberately shaped or otherwise modified in accordance with a plan or design.  Examples include parade grounds, parks, and formal gardens.

Diagnostic – An artifact that is indicative of a particular time period and/or cultural group.

District – A district is composed of resources which individually and as a whole exhibit significant features.  The resources may represent a prehistoric or historic context, but are comparable within one district. Districts are made up of buildings, structures, designed landscapes, and objects that make up a coherent whole, for example, a parade ground with surrounding buildings, structures, and fixed objects.    

Disturbance – Post-depositional actions that remove artifacts and archaeological deposits from their original location of deposition.

Documentation – The records that document the creation, history, acquisition by the repository as well as the subsequent history of the collection.  Documentation records also include provenance and provenience documents, acquisition documents, conservation reports, cataloging records, images and research papers both created by the holding institution and by previous owners or independent researchers, etc.

Ecofact – A non-cultural/natural object recovered from a cultural context; i.e., quartzite crystal, stone, unmodified animal bone. See Noncultural Artifact or Materials.

Effect An undertaking has an effect on a property when it may alter the characteristics that may qualify the property for listing on the National Register or alter features of a property’s location, setting, or use that contribute to the property’s significance. An effect is not necessarily negative; any alteration to the property’s significant characteristics is considered an effect.  Section 106 review is not required if the undertaking will result in changes not relevant to the property’s eligibility for the National Register.  Therefore, understanding the reason for the property’s significance, and the characteristics which contribute to that significance, are crucial for making determinations of “effect” or “no effect.”  After determining whether the undertaking will have an effect, the agency must determine if the effect will be adverse.

Elevation – The height measurement of an archaeological remain or artifact.

Eligible A property or site that meets the criteria of eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, but is not yet officially listed on the NRHP (see 36 CFR 60.4).  For Section 106 purposes there is no difference in treatment, protection, and preservation between an eligible and listed property/site.

Feature – Evidence of human activity at a site visible as changes in the soil; also, non-portable items in a site (e.g., fire hearths, house floors, house foundations, post molds). 

Federal Records Act Directs the Administrator of the National Archives to regulate the transfer of records from the custody of one executive agency to another.

Fixed Object in the Landscape – A relatively small-scale construction usually artistic in nature or having some purpose of visual reference.  Examples include statuary, sculpture, monuments, fountains, and boundary markers.

Flake – A thin flat asymmetrical piece of chert or other stone that was intentionally removed from a tool or projectile core during the process of manufacture or resharpening.

FerrotypeSee Tintype.

Field Documentation – Any record (paper or digital) containing information about the work conducted; i.e., form, log, image, map, data.

Footer The supporting base or groundwork of a structure, as for a fireplace or wall.

FS (Field Specimen) Any object, artifact, or sample collected during an archaeological project; the location is documented on a catalog sheet, called an FS Log.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – Computer-generated mapping systems that allow researchers to plot and analyze site distributions against environmental and other background data derived from remote sensing, digitized maps, and other sources.

Grit – Crushed stone used as temper in clay in order to make pottery vessels stronger.  Grain size is larger than in “sand” temper.

Grog – Pulverized pot sherds used as temper in clay for producing pottery vessels.  

Habitation site A site at which prehistoric people lived or camped.

Historic and Archeological Resources Protection Plan – Document prepared in order to identify, evaluate, maintain, manage, and integrate cultural resources within the mission of LANTDIV within the statutes set by Federal, state, and local laws, mandates, and regulations.  

Historic Context – Information about historic trends and properties grouped by an important theme in the prehistory or history of a place during a particular time.

Historic District A concentrated and cohesive grouping of historic resources that retain a significant amount of their historic character. Historic resources that add to the District’s overall sense of time and place are classified as “contributing elements.” Severely altered historic properties and resources of more recent construction within a District are classified as “noncontributing elements.”

Historic Preservation – The “identification, evaluation, recordation, documentation, curation, acquisition, protection, management, rehabilitation, restoration, stabilization, maintenance, and reconstruction, or any combination of the foregoing activities” of historic properties. 

Historic Property – As defined by 36 CFR 800: “Any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object included in, or eligible for inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places.” This includes artifacts, records, and remains related to and located within such properties.

Historic Record Any historical, oral-historical, ethnographic, architectural, or other document that may provide a record of the past, whether associated with real property or not, as determined through professional evaluation of the information content and significance of the information. These records may include documents that are official, unofficial, or private papers that record DoD operations, functions, equipment, history, and people.

Historic Resource A building, structure, object, or site that is at least 50 years old and that 1) is associated with events or person of significance; or 2) embodies the characteristics of an important architectural style, method of construction or plant type; or 3) may potentially yield cultural and archeological information.

Human Remains – Whole or partial remains of a human being; i.e., burial, tooth.

In situ – Archaeological items are said to be "in situ" when they are recovered in the location where they were deposited.

Incised – A decoration found on pottery consisting of lines drawn into wet clay.

Inclusion – A foreign solid that is enclosed in the mass of an otherwise homogeneous material (e.g., pottery temper, cultural remains in a soil layer).

Indian Tribe – As set forth in the 1992 amendments to the NHPA, “Indian tribe” refers to tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including a Native village, Regional Corporation or Village Corporation, as defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.  This definition is also used in NAGPRA and it includes Federally-recognized Indian tribes which are identified and listed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Integrity The condition of a physical property, building, or site to retain its historic character, appearance, ambiance, and/or site structure to be recognizable to the period when the property, building, or site achieved significance. Integrity is assessed during inventories and surveys.

Inventory – Both the process and result of locating properties and documenting their significance in order to determine if they meet the National Register criteria of evaluation.  The inventory process includes archival research, field survey, and literature review sufficient to assemble the information necessary to evaluate the historic significance of the properties.  The resulting inventory document lists the properties eligible and ineligible for inclusion in the National Register. This is also sometimes referred to as a “survey.”

Lithic – Stone, or made of stone.

Local Government – As set forth in 36 CFR 800, “local government” means a city, county, parish, township, municipality, borough, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State.

Macroblock A series of excavation units placed adjacent to one other to expose a larger area of the site.

Material Remains – Material remains means artifacts, objects, specimens and other physical evidence that are excavated or removed in connection with efforts to locate, evaluate, document, study, preserve or recover a prehistoric or historic resource.

Matrix – The material that archaeological artifacts are surrounded by before being excavated.

mbd (meters below datum) Depth measurements based on the relationship to the site’s vertical datum (which is above the present ground surface).

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) – A document signed by the SHPO, ACHP, and the relevant Federal agency describing what the agency will do to meet the requirements of the NHPA, Section 106.

Metadata – Documentation on the format, structure, contents, and authority of data.

Microfiche – A non-coded machine-readable record; a sheet of film on which a printed book, journal, newspaper or other publication that has been reduced in size.

Microfilm – A non-coded machine-readable record; a roll of film on which a printed book, journal, newspaper or other publication that has been reduced in size.

Microform – A non-coded machine-readable record; a printed book, journal, newspaper or other publication that has been reduced in size so that it must be read with special equipment.

Midden – A surface used for trash disposal, often characterized by dark staining and/or an accumulation of debris.

Migrating Data – The process of transferring data between storage types, formats or computer systems.

Mitigation – Actions taken to reduce the impact of a construction project on an historic site. Mitigation can range from site avoidance to excavation and thorough study.Procedure for acquiring data from a cultural resource which has been designated as a National Register resource which has become threatened by an undertaking of adverse effect.  The response is a necessary part of compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.   

MNI (Minimum Number of Individuals) In faunal studies, an estimate of the smallest

number of individuals necessary to account for all the skeletal remains of a particular species in a site. 

Mottling – Displaying multiple colors or shades, often used to describe soil colors.

Multi-component – A site is said to be multi-component when it shows evidence of two or more distinctive cultural occupations.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) The Federal agency responsible for managing the records of the Federal government.  Agencies are required to consult with NARA prior to disposing of their records.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) –  A law passed by Congress in 1969 which requires the Federal government to “insure that presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given appropriate consideration in decision-making along with economic and technical considerations.” This Act provides goals and means for carrying out environmental policies, requires public participation in the Federal planning process, and requires consultation with agencies or technical experts who have participated in the project planning process and have provided significant information and recommendations. NEPA also requires the preparation of a detailed statement on the environmental impact of major Federal actions that significantly affect the environment to ensure that environmental information is available to citizens before decisions are made and major Federal actions are taken.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) – Establishes historic preservation as a national policy through the protection, management, and treatment of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.  The Act provides for a National Register of Historic Places and establishes the ACHP. Pertinent aspects of the law include Section 106 and Section (defined below).

National Register of Historic Places (NRHP or National Register) – The NRHP established the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP or NR).  The National Register is the Federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant on the national, state, and local level in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.  This list is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior in the National Park Service. The National Register criteria for evaluation for determining the eligibility of properties are found in 36 CFR 60.4.

National Register Bulletin – Guidance document issued from time to time by the National Register dealing with the identification and evaluation of various types of historic properties.

National Register Resources – Designation which includes all eligible, nominated, and unassessed resources to the National Register.  The designation is used synonymously with "historic property" as defined by Federal regulations, but also includes resources not identified as historic properties and not recognized as significant resources.

National Register Resources Inventory – Compilation of cultural resources identified within an installation, regardless of National Register status.  An inventory is maintained from overview survey to intensive level survey to data recovery, so may contain resources not yet evaluated, resources determined eligible for, resources nominated to, and resources listed in the National Register. 

Native American – Of or relating to a tribe, people, or culture that is indigenous to the United States.  It does not imply Federal recognition.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Action of 1990 (NAGPRA) The Act which provides for the protection of Native American and Native Hawaiian cultural items, and establishes a process for the removal of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony from sites located on lands owned or controlled by the Federal government through a consultation process, whether intentionally excavated or discovered inadvertently. NAGPRA also explains the transfer of ownership, addresses the recovery, treatment, and repatriation of cultural items. The Act also contains guidelines for data gathering, reporting, consultation, and permitting. The Act requires each Federal, state, or local agency, or any institution receiving Federal funds to summarize and inventory Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and cultural items in their collections; identify relationships of these objects with descendant Native Americans; and negotiate their disposition in consultation with related Federally-recognized, culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. 

Native Hawaiian – As defined in the 1992 amendments of the NHPA, any individual who is a descendant of the aboriginal people who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the area that now constitutes the State of Hawaii.

Negative – A photographic image with reversed polarity or, if colored, tonal values that are complementary to those of the original.

NISP (Number of Identified Specimens) In faunal studies, the total specimen count. 

Noncontributing A building, site, structure, or object within a Historic District, which does not add to the values or qualities of that District because it was not present during the Period of Significance or it no longer possesses historic integrity or does not independently meet the NRHP Criteria.

Non-Cultural Artifacts or Materials – General term applied to items collected at archeological sites that are natural (not man-made), but still have cultural or archeological significance. Includes soil samples, shell and floral remains. See Ecofact.

Non-Human Skeletal Remains – Whole or partial skeletal remains that are not from a human being; i.e., pet burial, mastodon kill or butcher site.

Numismatic Artifact – Relating to coins, currency or payment methods.

Object – Objects are constructions associated with a location and exhibit the following elements: small size, aesthetic elements, and simple construction.  The definition is exclusive of definitions for building and structure. 

Osteology – The study of bones.

Overview Survey – A process of compiling data through archival research and pedestrian survey which may or may not be completed in conjunction with subsurface testing.  An overview survey may be contained within a Phase I survey but cannot be substituted for a Phase I survey. 

Oxidation – A ceramic firing atmosphere with an abundance of oxygen, which changes the color of the fired clay (often turning it shades of red).

Paleobotany – Study of ancient plants from fossil remains and other evidence; also called Paleoethnobotany.

Paleontological – Of or relating to forms of pre existing life as represented by the fossils of plants, animals and other organisms.

Paleontological Remains – Non-cultural items recovered from a cultural context; i.e., fossils, petrified wood, dinosaur bones.

Paste – A mixture of clay and water, to which other materials are added as temper before being formed into a pottery vessel. 

Period of Significance – The period in which a historic resources attained its significance. The Period of Significance can be a date (e.g., date of construction if the property is important for its architectural merits) or a date range (e.g., timeframe a historical figure was associated with a property or site).

Phase I – An exploratory survey of an area to determine location and boundaries of any historic or archaeological sites.

Phase II – Archaeological testing of a site to make recommendations regarding its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Phase III – A thorough excavation of an historic or archaeological site listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

PH (post hole) – The hole dug prior to placing a post into the ground.

Philatelic Artifact – Item of or relating to adhesive postage stamps.

PM (post mold) – The stain created from the disintegration of an in-ground post.  

Preservation – “The protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage, as well as prevent loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural property.” (Art Conservation Studio Glossary)

Preservation Maintenance – Protection of existing historic materials and building elements through preventative maintenance.

Preventive Care/Preventive Conservation – “Actions taken to create an environment in which damage and deterioration of an object is minimized.  These actions include the monitoring, recording and controlling environmental conditions; inspecting and recording the condition of objects; establishing an integrated pest management program; practicing proper handling, storage, exhibit, housekeeping and packing and shipping techniques; integrated pest management; emergency preparedness and response; and reformatting/duplication.” (Art Conservation Studio Glossary)

Profile drawing – A precise scale drawing of the strata revealed in the walls or other exposures of an excavation.  A section that has been drawn is said to have been "profiled".

Programmatic Agreement – A written agreement between a Federal agency, the SHPO, and ACHP which adjusts the NHPA Section 106 process set forth in 36 CFR 800 in order to accommodate an agency’s program or mission by stipulating how a set of undertakings or a set of effects which are similar and repetitive in nature will be carried out in order to avoid or mitigate adverse effects.  The PA describes what the agency will do to meet the requirements of the NHPA, Section 106 for this limited class.

Property Type A grouping of individual properties based on a set of shared physical or associative characteristics. Physical characteristics may relate to structural forms, architectural styles, building materials, or site type. Associated characteristics may be the nature of related events or activities, association with a specific individual or group, or the category of information about which a property may yield information.

Provenance – The background and history of ownership for an object or records. Generally used for works of art, historical objects and archival records.

Provenience – Pertaining to the origin or source of an artifact.  In archaeology, it is the three-dimensional location of an artifact or feature within a site, measured by two horizontal dimensions and a vertical elevation.

Punctation – Pressing dots or other shapes into the surface of a pottery vessel, usually one shape at a time.

Records – Recorded information including data in computer systems created or received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs and kept as evidence of such activity.  According to 36 CFR 1222.12, “federal records are defined as all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data in them.”

Records Management The planning, controlling, directing, organizing, training, promoting, and other managerial activities involved with respect to records creation, records maintenance and use, and records disposition in order to achieve adequate and proper documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal government and effective and economical management of agency operations.

Registrar – “An individual responsible for the development and implementation of procedures and policies affecting the acquisition, management and disposition of collections.” (

Rehabilitation – The alteration or upgrading of a building to allow a new use which extends the building’s productive life while still maintaining the elements of the building which contribute to its historic significance. 

Repository – “a facility such as a museum, archeological center, laboratory or storage facility that is managed by a university, college, museum, or other educational or scientific institution, a federal, state, or local government agency, or Indian tribe that can provide professional, systematic, and accountable curatorial services on a long-term basis.” [36 CFR 79.4(j)]

Sacred Objects – Specific ceremonial objects that are needed by traditional religious leaders for the practice of traditional religions by their present-day adherents.  See Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Section 106 – The section of the NHPA that requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties.  The process for implementing this policy is described in 36 CFR 800.

Section 110 The section of the NHPA that requires Federal agencies to identify historic, architectural, engineering, and archeological properties under their stewardship and assess the eligibility for the NRHP.  The process for implementing this policy is described in 36 CFR 800.

Secretary of the Interior – The United States Secretary of the Interior oversees the United States Department of the Interior, a branch of government which is focused on conserving and managing federally owned lands.

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archaeology and Historic Preservation – Technical advice regarding archaeology and historic preservation methods.  Full text may be found at:

Shard – A piece of broken glass.

Shell midden – An archaeological accumulation of shell refuse, sometimes including animal bone and other artifacts.  

Sherd – A piece of broken pottery.

Significance/Significant – Attributes of a site, building, or structure which determine the potential of eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places.     

Site  A location of historic or prehistoric significance which exhibits or represents evidence of human activity.  The location usually but not necessarily contains physical evidence of the activity.   

Slip – A fine clay wash applied to the exterior of a dried, unfired pottery vessel for purposes of giving the finished vessel a certain color, as well as decreasing the permeability of the pot.

Stabilization – The act or process of reestablishing a weather-resistant enclosure and the structural stability of an unsafe or deteriorated property while maintaining the essential form and historic integrity as it exists at present.

State – For the purposes of the NHPA, the fifty states of the United States plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) – The official, designated by the governor, who coordinates preservation activities within each state and carries out the state's responsibilities under the NHPA.

Status of Knowledge – A typical ICRMP component that summarizes, presents, and/or provides access to information on cultural resources and other important management topics, and evaluates the status or quality of such information.

Strata – Many layers of earth or levels in an archaeological site (singular: stratum).

Stratification – The layering of deposits in archaeological sites.  Cultural remains and natural sediments become buried over time, forming strata.

Structure – Any construction used for human activities other than shelter.  Examples include bridges, roads, tunnels, industrial facilities, ships and other vessels, aircraft, and spacecraft.

Temper – The use of an additive (e.g., ground shell, sand, plant fibers) to both strengthen and reduce shrinkage of ceramics during firing.

Test pit – A small excavation unit dug to learn what the depth and character of the stratum might be, and to determine more precisely which strata contain artifacts and other material remains.

Tintype – A positive photograph made directly on an iron plate varnished with a thin sensitized film; also called ferrotype.

Traditional Cultural Property – As defined in National Register Bulletin 38, a traditional cultural property (or place) is one that is associated with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that are rooted in that community’s history and important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.  Traditional cultural properties are often eligible for inclusion on the National Register, and may be entirely natural places with no evidence of human use.

Treatment Any measure applied to a property in order to make it suitable for use.

Treatment of Built Environment Categories – A concept associated with categorization of the built environment that establishes standardized approaches to the treatment of different built environment categories.

Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) – The Officer of a federally recognized Indian tribe who is responsible for the historic preservation program of the Tribe.

Tribal Official – Chief Executive Officer or any officer, employee or agent officially representing the Indian tribe.

Undertaking – “Any project, activity, or program that can result in changes in the character or use of historic properties.  The project, activity, or program must be under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of a Federal agency or licensed or assisted by a Federal agency.” 

Unit (excavation unit) – A defined horizontal area that is systematically excavated, such as a 2-x-2 meter square.

Use-wear Any evidence on an artifact of its use in the past (e.g., scraping on the inside of a vessel, burning, butcher marks). 

Zooarchaeology – The study of animal remains from archaeological sites.

Zoological – Of or relating to animals.