Our speaker will be Dr. Ira Beckerman. Ira has been the Cultural Resources Section Chief for the Bureau of Design at PennDOT since 1998. Trained as an archaeologist (Ph.D. Anthropology, Penn State, 1986), he has worked as a field archaeologist in Mexico, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. His 22 years of transportation experience is split between PennDOT and (previously) the Maryland State Highway Administration. Dr. Beckerman’s research interests include archaeological predictive modeling, pre-contact Eastern North America, and GIS. He is a member of the Society for American Archaeology, Register of Professional Archaeologists, and the Transportation Research Board’s Archaeology and Historic Preservation Committee, and has served on panels for TRB and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Dr. Beckerman was a 2001 recipient of the PennDOT Star of Excellence. His group also recently led an effort to develop a predictive model for archaeological sites which serves as a valuable tool for screening projects early in the planning process.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)
The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was passed into law in 1966. The purpose of the law is to protect historic and archaeological sites of significance. One outcome of the NHPA was the creation of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which is a list of districts, sites, and structures deemed worthy of protection. There are more than 1 million properties currently on the list and about 30,000 additional properties are added annually. Section 106 of the NHPA specifically requires historical and archaeological sites to be assessed for impact as part of any federally funded project.
To gain a better understanding of the Section 106 process, take a look at A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review, a brief overview put together by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Also, watch the following video which describes the process which agencies need to follow to comply with Section 106 of NHPA.
Video: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (7:52)
Cultural Resources GIS
Many states have developed GIS-based systems to help state agencies and other interested parties identify historic properties and known archaeological sites and assess their proximity to planned projects. Spend some time exploring Pennsylvania’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS). CRGIS was created and maintained through a collaborative partnership between the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) and PennDOT. (note: CRGIS requires that pop-ups are allowed ... so you'll have to enable them in your browser either in general or for this site specifically. You can disable them again when you're done exploring CRGIS. Instructions for adjusting pop-up settings in Internet Explorer/Edge and Chrome are included in the "Getting Started" link in the upper right portion of the CRGIS website.)
Archaeological Predictive Modeling
A number of efforts have been undertaken in recent years to use predictive modeling to identify locations which are likely archaeological sites. In Pennsylvania, FHWA, PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and URS Corporation partnered to create such a predictive model which is described in brief here. The model uses data from known archaeological sites together with spatial algorithms to rank areas based on their likelihood of having artifacts. These data are then used in evaluating potential projects and alternatives.