Chrysalis offers a full range of archaeological services, including all phases of regulatory required work: assessment, survey, excavation and forensic services

Mapping archaeological features in the field

Cultural Resource Management (CRM) takes many forms, requiring a range of research services to investigate a property or region’s historic character and recommend preservation techniques. Government agencies review findings and recommendations based on their conformation to local, state, and federal law guiding historic preservation (e.g. Section 106). Each project presents unique challenges, and Chrysalis develops its research plans tailored to each client’s specific needs.

The research process for historic properties usually conforms to a general framework of investigation phases, beginning with a Phase IA documentary study and surface assessment, and potentially ending with a full Phase III mitigation. Not every project requires that all phases of the CRM process be undertaken.

Check out our CRM 101 document for a guide to the basics of the Cultural Resource Management process.

Archaeological Survey in Cranbury, NJ

Surveys & Assessments

Initial Environmental Review

In order to determine if the CRM process is necessary, applicants provide initial information to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or the appropriate local agency (such as the City of New York-Landmarks Preservation Commission). This information generally includes the initial proposed action. The regulatory agency reviews this information and makes a determination on the potential effect, thus initiating the CRM process.

Phase IA Documentary Study

If the SHPO or the appropriate local agency determines construction may impact possible buried historic structures or other historically significant cultural resources, if the project area is listed on the City, State, or National Register of Historic Places, or if the property falls within a City, State, or National Historic District, the agency requires a Phase IA Documentary Study be undertaken. This limited study, usually conducted by a CRM firm in order to conform to regulatory guidelines, incorporates regional historical and site-specific information with the analysis of historic maps into a single report. The report then makes recommendations as to whether or not any significant buried historic remains may be uncovered during the project.

This phase also includes a survey of the project area.

In general, the coordination effort, once the regulatory agency makes the initial determination that a Phase IA is required, is minimal. The CRM firm will produce the required Phase IA Report, which the contractor will approve prior to sending to the regulatory agency for formal approval.

If the report determines that there is no significant risk to historic material, the cultural resource process ends at this stage. If the report determines that there may be some significant historic material at risk within the project area, the next phase begins.



Excavating a midden at City Hall Park

Phase IB Field Testing

Phase IB testing involves small-scale physical excavation to test a site’s potential for harboring buried historic material. The CRM firm deploys a small team to excavate a limited number of Standardized Test Pits (STPs) and/or larger Test Units by hand, although the assistance of mechanical equipment may be required depending on the ground surface. This is done to determine if the materials remaining below ground are culturally significant beyond what the written record provides. Cultural materials may include architectural remnants, prehistoric and historic era artifacts, or human remains.

Prior to the commencement of Phase IB field testing, the contractor and regulatory agency review and approve a proposed testing protocol/plan of action developed by the CRM firm based on the results of the Phase IA and the contractor’s proposed project plan. Only then will physical testing begin.

Excavating an 18th century well at City Hall

Once fieldwork is completed, time is required for laboratory analysis of the materials recovered. A general rule is that for every one week spent in the field at least two weeks are required for laboratory work. During this process artifacts are washed, analyzed, and recorded in a digital database. This information is then synthesized into the final Phase IB Report, which must meet the approval of the SHPO or local government historic agency.

If the recovered materials are determined not to be significant, the cultural resource process ends at this stage. If the recovered materials are determined to be significant, the next phase begins.

Depending upon the site history, monitoring by a professional archaeologist can, at times, occur in lieu of field testing. Monitoring requires that the archaeologist be on site during excavation portions of the construction project to ensure there is no disturbance to significant cultural resources. If the archaeologist determines there to be significant resources being impacted during the excavation, he or she may temporarily halt the excavation until a further determination of the nature of exposed resources can be made.

Phase II Field Testing

Artifact screening at Peck Slip

Phase II testing employs wider excavation testing through a larger number of both STPs and excavation units. This is to better determine the extent and nature of any buried culturally significant archaeological resources. Prior to the commencement of Phase II field testing, the contractor and regulatory agency review and approve a proposed testing protocol/plan of action developed by the CRM firm based on the results of the Phase IB and the contractor’s proposed project. Only then will physical testing begin.

The same laboratory procedures outlined for Phase IB testing are followed in the course of Phase II investigations.

Phase III Mitigation

Phase III Mitigation is a full archaeological excavation of the project area. Phase III work occurs only when all the other steps indicate that a major archaeologically significant site remains beneath the project area. Sites that proceed to a Phase III are most likely considered eligible for the National Register.

If a project proceeds to this phase, the site owners, the contractors, and the SHPO or local governing agency generally enact a Memorandum of Understanding and/or Agreement (MOU/MOA). This document outlines what type of work will be done, why, how, and the projected outcome. In addition, prior to the commencement of field excavation, the contractor and regulatory agency review and approve a proposed excavation plan of action developed by the CRM firm based on the results of the Phase IB and/or II and the contractor’s proposed project plan. Only then will physical testing begin.


Construction Monitoring

Mostly undertaken within urban environments as part of the Phase IB process.

Construction monitoring is most common in urban settings such as New York City and may, in some circumstances, satisfy Phase IB and Phase II testing requirements. This process requires an archaeologist to be on site during earth moving activities in archaeologically sensitive areas.




Excavations at St. George’s Church Cemetery

Forensic Archaeology

On-call forensic staff allows us to handle all situations in a timely, discrete and expeditious manner.

Chrysalis has a great deal of experience working within cemetery sites and with the unexpected discovery of historic human remains. Our team will coordinate with the Medical Examiner and any other regulatory requirements associated with the discovery of human remains while treating the situation in a respectful manner.