While here at the Conservancy we wish we could save every site, being a non-profit we have to make the hard calls. We have blogged about some of the ways in which the Archaeological Conservancy go about finding archaeological sites that may be eligible for acquisition, this is only the first step in a long process. Not all of the sites that are brought to our attention fit our necessary criteria for acquisition. In order to be considered for preservation by the Conservancy a site must most importantly have significant research potential and be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, among numerous important factors for consideration. (See the full list Of Criteria below)

In the Eastern Region, we have many examples that demonstrate the whole range of sites covered by these criteria. Take for instance the Kippax Plantation site in Virginia. This is a site with both prehistoric and historic components, including the remains of the 17th Century Bolling Family plantation and major trading center between Europeans and Native Americans. The site contains artifacts related to colonial settlement, Native American trade, and African Americans who were slaves on the plantation. Examples of artifacts found during excavations include trade goods such as glass beads, and colonoware – an earthenware pottery associated with Native Americans and African Americans.

colonial ware

Artifacts Recovered from the Kippax site, Virginia
Artifacts Recovered from the Kippax site, Virginia

The site is located in a city southeast of Richmond. The 10-acre parcel containing the site was threatened by encroaching development when the Conservancy began efforts to acquire it. In addition to its urban location, the property is also an example of a Conservancy preserve with standing structures as the property contains the 19th century farmhouse and outbuildings. Most Conservancy preserves do not have standing structures, but the presence of a building does not preclude the property from consideration.

The 100-year old Heretik family farmhouse at Kippax Plantation Preserve.
The 100-year old Heretik family farmhouse at Kippax Plantation Preserve.

As for site size, preserves in the Eastern Region range from as little as a quarter of an acre (the Waterside Shell Heap in Maine) to as large as 90 acres (the pending Queen Esther’s Town Preserve in Pennsylvania). Different types of sites cover different footprints, and in some cases part of a site has already been destroyed, or there is only a portion of a site that the Conservancy is able to acquire. Regardless of size, we have to consider the research potential of a site based on its significance and how intact or undisturbed the deposits are. If a site has been heavily impacted by soil disturbing activities like grading, or topsoil mining, it is possible that the artifacts have been moved from their original context and that all of the features, like hearths or post molds, have been destroyed.

Waterside Shell Heap Preserve, Maine
Waterside Shell Heap Preserve, Maine

The research potential of a site is also impacted by plowing activities associated with farming, but in many cases the plow has disturbed the soil to only a shallow depth and there are intact deposits beneath this layer (what is known as the plowzone). In the East many of our preserves were plowed at one time or another, making it possible to allow farmers to lease these properties for agricultural production as long as they use no-till farming methods or plow no deeper than the level of the soil that has already been disturbed. One example in the East is the Faust Avenue Preserve in Pennsylvania (pictured above). This property contains the remains of a Late Woodland village site. Presently the field is used to grow hay which causes no harm to the archaeological deposits.

When a site is evaluated as meeting all of the criteria the Conservancy pursues acquisition of the property containing the site through donation, purchase, or bargain sale. These properties are then managed as permanent archaeological research preserves and can be open for research to professional archaeologists who submit a valid research proposal approved by the Conservancy.

Kelley Berliner, Eastern Regional Field Representative

Once you have the Site: How Do You Care for An Archaeological Site? Developing a Plan

Learn more about the Mission of The Archaeological Conservancy

Save the Past for the Future & Become a Member

Catch-up on what our Eastern Region has been up to lately: Important Cherokee Valley Town Site, 5th Anniversary of Preservation

Site Selection Criteria:

  1. May be historic or prehistoric;
  2. Must be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places;
  3. Must have significant research potential;
  4. May or may not be threatened with destruction;
  5. May be any size;
  6. Will most often be privately held, especially sites adjacent to public land such as parks;
  7. May or may not have local management groups or stewards, though local support and management make a site a better candidate for acquisition;
  8. May sometimes be acquired by the Conservancy as an interim protective measure until local agent complete financial arrangements for local acquisition;
  9. May in some instances remain in use for agricultural (or other) production, if that use does not conflict with preservation of the site;
  10. May in some instances include buildings.



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