Reconnaissance Surveys

What is a Reconnaissance Survey?
A reconnaissance survey is defined as “an examination of all or part of an area accomplished in sufficient detail to make generalizations about the types and distributions of historic properties that may be present” within a given project area (Federal Register 48:44739). Reconnaissance surveys represent a type of field survey that is often used to gather initial information regarding the presence or absence of historic properties within a project area. Reconnaissance surveys generally include limited shovel testing in areas that are likely to contain archaeological resources. 

The results of a reconnaissance survey should inform the applicant, agency, and the SHPO about the types of resources that are likely to be found within a project area and the need for additional survey. The SHPO recommends that archaeological sites identified during a reconnaissance survey be tested at an intensive level in order to delineate the boundaries of the site and to make an initial evaluation of the site’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

In South Carolina, reconnaissance surveys are most profitably employed in the Piedmont region of the state where soil erosion has created areas of greater surface exposure. Reconnaissance surveys, however, rarely fulfill Section 106 requirements for the identification of historic properties in the Coastal Plain. It should be emphasized that areas surveyed at this level of investigation will require resurvey if additional information is needed about the nature and distribution of archaeological resources within a given project area.

At a minimum, reconnaissance surveys should document the following: (extracted from the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation)

  1. The kinds of properties looked for;

  2. The boundaries of the area surveyed;

  3. The method of survey, including the extent of survey coverage;

  4. The kinds of historic properties present in the surveyed area;

  5. Specific properties that were identified, and the categories of information collected; and

  6. Places examined that did not contain historic properties.

Guidelines for Reconnaissance Survey Reports

The SHPO will review results of a reconnaissance survey within 30 days of receipt. To ensure timely SHPO review, please include the following information in the completed Project Review Form: 

  1. Project Title

  2. Agency Requiring Work

  3.  Agency Project and/or Permit Application Numbers, if applicable

  4.  Project Location (include a 7.5-minute USGS topographic map delimiting the project boundaries and project planning maps)

  5.  Field Personnel and Dates of Survey

  6.  Brief Statement of Project Goals and Objectives
     

  7. Field Methods

    1. Survey Description. Specific techniques should be described and justified for the project area. Describe locations examined, intervals between transects, depth of artifacts and/or subsoil in shovel tests, variations in vegetation coverage, and surface visibility. Provide justification for areas not surveyed either by pedestrian only or shovel tests and for structure documentation.

    2.  Maps. Cartographic illustrations should depict the Area of Potential Effects (APE), areas where subsurface testing took place, transect or shovel test locations, recorded sites within and near the APE, newly identified structures and sites, surface survey areas and any relevant field description (e.g. vegetative cover). All maps will include a north arrow (magnetic north, true north, or grid north), a map scale (e.g., 1:24,000), and a bar scale. If relevant, also include maps of soil, wetlands, and disturbances.

    3.  Photographs. Include photographs showing the project area, areas of disturbance, types of vegetation, and any newly identified archaeological sites and structures within the APE.

    4. Structures. Newly identified and previously recorded structures should be recorded on a South Carolina Statewide Survey Form. Consult with SHPO staff to determine the proper form.

    8.    Summary of Results

    1.  List of all previously recorded cultural resources and their National Register eligibility status (if known).

    2.  Results of the literature and cartographic search.

    3. Map showing the predictive model or generalized model of high and low probability areas.

    4.  Map showing the locations of 1)transects or areas where subsurface testing took place, and 2)areas that require further investigation (if any).

    5. An estimate of survey coverage for each identified probability area performed during reconnaissance survey.

    6.  National Register evaluations for sites tested at the intensive level of investigation.

    7.   Recommendations for further investigation and assessment of effects.
       

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