Archaeology

Archaeological resources can be classified as pre-contact (or prehistoric) or historic. Pre-contact archaeological resources are those that predate Native American contact with Europeans. In California, the pre-contact era persisted well into the eighteenth century (as late as A.D. 1769). Pre-contact archaeological resources may include cultural features and artifacts.

Historic-era archaeological resources postdate Native American contact with Europeans. Examples of these resources include the remnants of nineteenth-century settlements and activities that have the potential to address relevant research questions for the region.

Traditional Cultural Properties are places important to Native Americans or other living communities or ethnic groups.

In addition to archaeological resources, historic architectural and built-environment resources in California are those that postdate Native American contact with Europeans and include buildings, structures, objects, landscapes, districts, and linear features. For more information about these resource types, please visit the Historic Architecture and Built Resources page.

Cultural resources may be listed, or found eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and/or the California Register of Historical Resources (CRHR). To be eligible for listing in the NRHP and the CRHR, a resource must meet at least one of four significance criteria.


The eligibility significance criteria for listing a cultural resource in the NRHP and/or the CRHR are similar, as shown in the two tables below:

NRHP Criteria CRHR Criteria

  1. Properties that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

  2. Properties associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.

  3. Properties that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

  4. Properties that have yielded or may likely yield information important in prehistory or history.

  1. Resources associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history or the cultural heritage of California or the United States.

  2. Resources associated with the lives of persons important to local, California, or national history.

  3. Resources that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region, or method of construction, or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values.

  4. Resources that have yielded, or has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or history of the local area, California, or the nation.


In addition to meeting at least one of the significance criteria, a cultural resource must also have integrity. The concept of integrity refers to a resource’s ability to convey its significance. The NRHP and CRHR criteria recognize seven aspects or qualities that, in various combinations, define integrity. These aspects include the following:

  • Location: the place where the historic property was constructed or the place where the historic event occurred.
  • Design: the combination of elements that create the form, plan, space, structure, and style of a property.
  • Setting: the physical environment of a historic property.
  • Materials: the physical elements that were combined or deposited during a particular period of time and in a particular pattern or configuration to form a historic property.
  • Workmanship: the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular culture or people during any given period in history or prehistory.
  • Feeling: a property’s expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time.
  • Association: the direct link between an important historic event or person and a historic property.

While it is not necessary for a property to retain all of the physical features or characteristics it had during its period of significance, it must retain those physical features that allow it to convey its past identity or character.