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Professional archaeologists have obligations that go beyond just fulfilling licensing, agency, and contractual requirements. They have ethical obligations to provide their clients with cost-effective archaeological services that meet professional standards.

When the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) or the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) recommend archaeological surveys, it does not mean that the entire project area must be surveyed or that any part of it needs to be subjected to intensive field examination. It only means that the project area is thought to have some site potential based on known site locations or predictive models, but this assessment is usually based on office-only review.

Occasionally, OSA may specify certain areas within a development parcel that have the highest site potential, but deciding which areas to actually survey is typically left up to the discretion of the archaeologist in the field. Regardless of who recommends a survey, archaeologists should only survey those areas that they deem to have moderate to high site potential based on site locational modeling and land-use history. In addition, they should only survey areas that will be impacted, unless the research design specifies otherwise or the agency or client so requests.

Survey Responsibilities

When conducting a survey, it is the responsibility of the field archaeologists to obtain landowner permission to enter private land or to obtain agency permission to enter public land. Archaeologists surveying non-federal public land in Minnesota must obtain a license from the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) and OSA. Archaeologists surveying federal land must obtain an Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) permit from the land management agency.

Archaeologists are obligated to do their best to ensure that any artifacts or other materials of archaeological value are curated properly, especially those obtained by excavation. This means that retained materials are properly cared for and that they are reasonably available for examination by other archaeologists.

Professional archaeologists should adhere to professional standards, guidelines, and the ethical obligations of an archaeologist regardless of land owner, type of legal oversight, or type of project. This includes projects that are completed on private land or non-trust land on Indian reservations. It also includes work on culturally sensitive sites and burials.

Reporting Obligations

Principal Investigators are professionally obligated to complete written reports of their archaeological work and publicly report significant archaeological discoveries to a wider audience than just the sponsoring agency and the OSA. This reporting can involve the presentation of papers at professional conferences or the publication of articles in scientific journals or other periodicals.

Significant discoveries include descriptions of:

  • Intensive work carried out at important archaeological sites
  • Radiocarbon dates
  • Artifacts analyses of important collections
  • Regional or large-area survey data that can assist with site locational modeling or understanding Minnesota's past

State site forms must be filled out for all sites located during licensed surveys in Minnesota, but professional archaeologists are also ethically obligated to fill out and submit site forms to OSA or otherwise report sites located outside of project boundaries based on first-hand knowledge or informant reports. Archaeologists involved with privately sponsored research also should share site information critical to improving locational models, promoting site preservation, and understanding the past.

If a development project is cancelled prior to the completion of an archaeological report, but subsequent to the initiation of archaeological field survey, the Principal Investigator should minimally submit inventory forms to OSA for any located sites and ideally submit some form of report describing the location and methods of the survey.

OSA understands that legal contractual requirements occasionally restrict reporting options for a private development on private property, but if a state archaeological license has been issued, a condition of the license is to submit site forms and a report to OSA regardless of the project status.

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