INTRODUCTION TO THE
UPLANDS SETTLEMENT PATTERNS PROJECT
Patricia E. Miller
In 1996 the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP) issued The Development of Prehistoric Settlement Pattern Research Priorities in Pennsylvania. Although often referred to as a model, the document actually outlines a policy for recommendations on the need for Phase I archaeological survey for projects requiring compliance with state and federal historic preservation mandates. For nineteen watersheds determined to have the highest quality of data on upland sites, Phase I surveys would be recommended only in riverine zones and certain other high probability settings defined in the policy. The Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (PAC) expressed a number of concerns about the policy and established a committee that subsequently met with the BHP to discuss these concerns. PAC's upland settlement patterns project was developed to address the need for a detailed understanding of the site data in low-priority watersheds so as to determine what, if any, important research questions could be answered through additional archaeological survey and excavation. This report presents the results of the project, which was funded through a PHMC Historic Preservation grant.
As discussed in the 1996 policy document, the BHP identified the high cost and low return of Phase I surveys in upland settings as an issue that needed to be addressed. The purpose of a Phase I survey is to identify significant sites, that is, those that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. However, over 35% of the surveys recommended by the BHP did not find sites and nearly half of the sites identified were not considered significant (BHP 1996:1). The cost of surveys funded by Federal agencies and under Pennsylvania's Act 70 Pennsylvania History Code is carried by the public and must be convincingly justified (BHP 1996:4). The relatively low return from Phase I surveys results in part from the fact that the BHP has not been able to synthesize existing data and develop better predictive models (BHP 1996:1). An alternate approach favored by some archaeologists, that we must identify and evaluate every site so as to maximize our information, is also considered too costly in light of public priorities (BHP 1996:9).
The development of research priorities to increase cost effectiveness in upland settings was based on the following logic:
To define areas where sufficient settlement pattern data has already been acquired, the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) file data was analyzed according to the following variables:
The basic unit of analysis was the watershed, of which there are 104 in the Commonwealth. Site density, the ratio of upland to riverine sites, information on chronological period, information on lithic utilization, and the number of previous surveys were quantified in sequence and at each stage, those that were significantly below average were eliminated from further consideration. In the final stage of analysis, the remaining watersheds were evaluated to identify those that had high values for all seven variables. Nineteen watersheds met the criteria and were listed as having a low probability for additional survey. In the remaining watersheds, the BHP would continue to use existing models to identify, and recommend Phase I surveys in, high probability areas.
The BHP policy is to continue to protect recorded sites in the 19 watersheds. Phase I survey is recommended for riverine settings adjacent to third order streams or higher. In addition, areas of high probability based on existing models were identified as areas where Phase I survey should be performed. These areas include:
Quarry sites and rock shelters were also identified as important site types that should be identified and protected.
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Members of PAC's Survey Priorities Committee met with Dr. Kurt Carr on February 18, 1997 to discuss some of the concerns that had been expressed regarding the policy and the potential for losing significant sites in the nineteen low-priority watersheds. General concerns expressed in that meeting and in a follow-up letter were that the BHP had not established a means of tracking the application of the research priorities policy and that by reducing the number of Phase I surveys, historic archaeological sites would be lost. Further, the management plan assumes that most sites in upland settings are plow-disturbed, multicomponent lithic scatters without features, that is, sites that would be significant only for their contribution to settlement pattern studies. There is, and continues to be, concern that other types of significant upland sites will not be identified and protected as a result of the policy.
A basic assumption of the policy is that the 19 low-priority watersheds have enough data and that additional information would be redundant. However, the methods that were used by the BHP were appropriate only to identify watersheds with the best archaeological data. The values for each of the variables used to classify the watersheds were selected relative to the mean value of 104 watersheds in the Commonwealth. There is nothing either inherent in this method or stated in the written policy to support the proposition that the watersheds have sufficient data and that additional data would be redundant. The quality of the PASS file data can also be questioned since biases and inaccuracies are known to exist. It is true that the data are often, if not routinely, used by researchers to develop predictive models despite the deficiencies. But to determine whether settlement patterns can be accurately interpreted from the data in the 19 low-priority watersheds, detailed analysis and synthesis of the existing data are necessary.
The policy recognizes other types of significant sites that might occur in upland settings (e.g., villages, rock shelters, sites with features) by identifying areas of high probability within the upland regions that should be surveyed. However, the identification of high probability areas, which include upland saddles, marl soils, and high fertility soils, was limited and based on very general models of settlement patterns. The survey priorities policy itself recognizes the "inherent problems of these models" (BHP 1996:9). At the February meeting, all attendees agreed that more precise definitions of high probability areas, grounded in the analysis and synthesis of existing data, were needed.
To identify high probability areas for significant upland sites, a clear understanding is needed of what constitutes a significant site. In opinions unrelated to the survey priorities policy, the BHP has indicated that any site with chronological information should be considered significant for its contribution to settlement pattern studies, although additional data recovery would not necessarily be required in these circumstances. In the nineteen low-priority watersheds the policy assumes that sufficient numbers of these sites have been identified and that additional sites would provide redundant data. This conclusion follows from the assumption that, because of the characteristics of upland sites, settlement pattern analysis is the only viable research issue that can be addressed using data from upland sites. Is this a valid assumption? Are there other research issues that could be addressed? What data would be required in terms of artifact patterning, number and types of features, etc. to address other research issues? Can we expect to find such data in upland settings?
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The PAC study reported herein was developed in an attempt to address the need for more detailed analysis of the site data in order to evaluate some of the assumptions of the survey priorities policy. The goals of the PAC study were to determine whether all important research questions can be addressed with the existing upland site data in the low-priority watersheds, whether the identification and excavation of additional archaeological sites would provide needed information, and where sites with significant information are likely to be found.
The project involved the analysis and evaluation of the existing PASS file data for three of the 19 watersheds, one each from the eastern, western, and central parts of the state. A Principal Investigator, each of whom is a PAC member, led the study in each region, assisted by one or more Research Assistants. The team for each region included two peer reviewers who provided comments on the final report. A reviewer from outside PAC, Dr. Dean Snow, Head of the Anthropology Department of the Pennsylvania State University, participated in status meetings and reviewed the final report to assure that procedures and conclusions were objective and appropriate to the goals of the study. The study was performed in consultation with the BHP; Dr. Kurt Carr participated in status meetings and was provided the opportunity to comment on the draft report. The BHP also provided PASS file data in electronic format for each of the studied watersheds.
A five-step approach was established by the study group:
1. Develop research issues to provide a framework for evaluating the existing data.
2. Examine the quality of the existing data for utility in addressing the established research issues. Identify biases in the survey coverage and consider whether the data are adequate for use in statistical models. Examine Phase II survey reports to evaluate the characteristics of data available from upland sites, such as whether sites produce information on site age, function, seasonality, etc. as is needed for the study of settlement strategies.
3. Determine what, if any, research issues cannot be addressed by the existing data.
4. Determine what types of sites would be likely to contain information to address unanswered questions.
5. Based on site data and existing studies, determine where such sites are likely to be located.
The results of the study for each watershed are
presented in the following three chapters. The final chapter of the report summarizes
the results of the project.
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Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP)
1996 The Development of Prehistoric Settlement Pattern Research Priorities in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.