National Historic Landmarks – Archeological Properties
The designation of National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) is an important
tool for ensuring that future generations may continue to benefit
from the preservation of these places.
NHLs are designated by the Secretary of the Interior in recognition
of their exceptional significance as special areas that express
the depth and breadth of American life and help us to understand
the history of the American people. Sites designated as NHLs are
automatically listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
NHLs identified for their exceptional importance in archeology
either have already yielded significant knowledge or are considered
likely to do so. They often impart information of major scientific
importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon
periods of occupation over large areas of the United States. Archeological
NHLs offer Americans ways to look at the past in new and rich
ways by producing data affecting theories, concepts, and ideas
to a major degree.
Historic Contexts and Nominations
Research documents called historic contexts provide
a framework for identifying, evaluating, and documenting potential
properties for either designation as National Historic Landmarks
and or for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Such contexts summarize what is significant about a particular
time and place, define property types, take stock of sites (known
and projected), pose research questions, provides evaluation criteria,
and discusses key bibliographic material.
For NHL studies, such historic contexts are called Theme Studies.
Nominations for landmark status are evaluated by at least one
of these themes:
Peopling places - Focuses on demography and settlement
Creating social institutions - Examines how social life
emerges and develops
Expressing cultural values - Looks at issues of belief
and their representation
Shaping political landscapes - Deals with identity, territoriality,
Developing economies - Explores how people extract, produce,
distribute, exchange, and consume resources
Expanding science and technology - Looks at material
remains, technology, and technological organization
Transforming environments - Examines humans’ response
to the environment and their impact upon it
Changing roles in the world - Assesses major contributions
to knowledge and how events relate to the rest of the globe
Archeological Theme Studies
Theme studies provide the historic context for related properties
and they serve several functions important to historic preservation.
Theme studies serve as a vehicle to:
- gather and analyze archeological and other evidence;
- identify, evaluate, and nominate nationally significant archeological
properties as National Historic Landmarks;
- update current National Park Service documentation for these
- develop and refine information that can be used by archeologists
working in the field, as well as federal, tribal, state and
local government agencies to protect, preserve, and interpret
Some important archeological theme studies have been completed
recently and are available.
Earliest American Theme Study
The Earliest Americans Theme
Study for the Eastern United States is a multi-year effort
of the NPS and our partners in the historic preservation community
and the Society of American Archeology’s NHL Archeology
Committee. This theme study recognizes nationally significant
archeological sites associated with the initial peopling of the
Eastern United States.
Historic Contact in Northeastern North America (1992)
(adapted into Robert S. Grumet, Historic Contact: Indian People
and Colonists in Today’s Northeastern United States in the
Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries, University of Oklahoma
Press, 1995.) Also see the "articles"