Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Archaeological sites and isolates

The National Park Service defines a site as "the location of a significant event, prehistoric or historic occupation or activity, or a building or structure, whether standing, ruined, or vanished, where the location itself possesses historical, cultural, or archaeological value regardless of the value of any existing structure" (See National Register Bulletin #15).

Archaeological Sites in Oregon 

An archaeological site in Oregon is defined as ten (10) or more artifacts (including lithic debitage) or a feature likely to have been generated by patterned cultural activity within a surface area reasonable to that activity (a form of density measure). Sites include, but are not limited to, submerged or submersible lands and the bed of the sea within the state´s jurisdiction and their contextual association, biotic or geological remains or deposits (See ORS 358.905[c][A]). For sites with less than 100 artifacts, the cultural activity must be postulated and the surface area justified for that activity. An archaeological site is also defined by the presence of any archaeological features, with or without associated artifacts.

An archaeological site can be considered prehistoric, historic, or both (having both a prehistoric and historic component). Prehistoric sites relate to archaeological sites that were constructed/occupied prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans, the introduction of trade goods and the introduction of written language. In Oregon prehistoric sites generally refer to sites occupied before 1800 A.D. Historic sites are defined chronologically with the arrival of Europeans in the New World and at least 50 years of age.

Historic sites provide documentation for numerous different historic study eras including early exploration, Native American-European relations, immigration/pioneer settlement, the advent of rural agriculture, industrial/urban development, and modern development including various Depression Era programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Program Administration (WPA). For a more detailed definition of historic sites, see the SHPO Archaeological Services´ Definition of Historic Sites.

Examples of archaeological sites include (but are not limited to) shipwrecks, lithic quarries, house pit villages, temporary campsites, burials, lithic scatters, homesteads, and historic-period town sites. Examples of features include peeled trees, cache pits, hearths, house pits, rock shelters, cairns, and rock art.

Smithsonian Trinomial Numbers

SHPO Archaeological Services maintains a statewide inventory database of over 37,000 prehistoric and historic-period sites. Staff reviews newly submitted archaeological site forms, isolate forms, and site update forms for completeness and accuracy and assigns Smithsonian trinomial numbers to newly discovered sites. Archaeological Services assigns a Smithsonian trinomial number to all archaeological (prehistoric and historic) sites greater than 50 years (federal lands) or 75 years (non-federal public and private lands) of age in the state.
Smithsonian trinomial numbers are considered a permanent site designation that does not designate eligibility or ineligibility. Smithsonian trinomial numbers are rarely removed from the record. To read more about the removal of Smithsonian trinomials numbers, see Removal of Smithsonian Trinomial Numbers from the SHPO Record.

Archaeological Site Forms and Related Publications

To submit an archaeological site for listing in the state of Oregon an applicant can submit an on-line SHPO site form. All information on the SHPO site form must be filled in completely and must include the site´s location on a USGS topographic map. The site form should also include a site map, artifact sketch maps (where appropriate), and photographs (e.g., site overview, features, artifacts). Archaeological Services provides a Site Form Guidelines/User Manual to help in the completion of the site form. For any archaeological site containing Rock Art (e.g., petroglyphs or pictographs) a Site Form-Rock Art Attachment Form is an option in the on-line site form. Currently a hard copy of the site form is necessary for the assignment of Smithsonian trinomial numbers. Archaeological Services also provides a more comprehensive outline of its Archaeological Site Form Policy as well as Common Problems Associated with Recording Sites in Oregon.
An Isolated Find in Oregon is defined as one (1) to nine (9) artifacts discovered in a location that appears to reflect a single event, loci, or activity. An Isolate Find Form must be completed for each discovery. While isolates are not given a Smithsonian trinomial number, it is important data and will be added to the Archaeological Inventory Database. To find out more about Archaeological Services´ policy regarding the recording of isolate finds, see Isolate Finds.

A Site Update is an abbreviated version of the SHPO site form. A site update form is required if there are any changes in an existing site´s boundaries, artifact composition or integrity (e.g., additional artifacts discovered), or the site´s environment. Qualified archaeologists working within an existing archaeological site listed with SHPO should complete a Site Update Form whenever changes are noted.

Traditional Cultural Property and the National Register

Along with archaeological sites, Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) should be considered for documentation. A TCP is generally defined as a property that is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that are rooted in that community´s history, and are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community. The National Register provides guidelines for evaluating and documenting TCPs in National Register Bulletin #38. Identification of TCPs is best conducted in conjunction with the appropriate Native American Tribes when appropriate. SHPO Archaeological Services recommends contacting the Commission on Indian Services to determine the most appropriate Indian tribes.

To guide the selection of historic properties (e.g., archaeological sites) to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service has developed the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. These criteria are standards by which every property that is nominated to the National Register is judged. rchaeological Services recommends applicants review the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. Archaeological Services assists archaeologists and individuals in deciding if a particular archaeological resource qualifies for listing in the National Register and provides a Determination of Eligibility form.