What You Need to Know When Archaeological Monitoring is Required

Archaeological monitoring is the observation of construction activities by an archaeologist in order to identify, document, protect, and/or recover potential archaeological resources discovered during those activities. In the event that potential resources are encountered, monitors may re-direct or stop construction activities to investigate the discovery.

106 Group helps clients navigate this process and minimize the risk that an inadvertent discovery could hinder a project with potential schedule delays or budget implications. Adam Kaeding and Madeleine Bray, 106 Group archaeologists, offer best practices and guidance for managing your construction project when archaeological monitoring is required.

Plan/prepare well

  • Have a clear, pre-approved monitoring plan in place so all parties have a shared expectation of monitoring methods, locations, and protocols, particularly regarding work stoppage
  • Ensure all parties are clear on their monitoring roles and responsibilities
  • Schedule a pre-construction cultural resources orientation meeting for construction personnel to ensure common understanding of the monitoring methodology, agency requirements, and communication protocols
Sample Table of Archaeological Monitoring Roles & Responsibilities

Facilitate good communication

  • Between archaeological monitor and contractor to:
    • Share accurate and timely construction schedules
    • Share changes to project plans that may result in ground disturbance in a location or associated with an activity not previously anticipated
    • Promptly communicate any site health and safety issues or concerns
  • Between archaeologist and machine operators to:
    • Establish verbal and nonverbal communication protocols during orientation (see above)
    • Quickly and clearly communicate with the operators if there is a need to pause work to examine a potential discovery
  • Between all parties and consulting tribes (if applicable) to:
    • Ensure that tribal interests in monitoring are appropriately conveyed and respected. Tribal monitoring concerns may vary from that of the archaeological monitor, and could be based on a spiritual connection to the place and/or people who have historically lived in the region.
    • Establish and maintain especially close communications between archaeological monitors and tribal monitors, if present.

Build trust

  • The State Historic Preservation Office and Office of State Archaeologist (OSA) rely on the archaeologist to enable quick decisions in the field
  • Contractor/client must trust the archaeologist and understand that the terms of the monitoring plan must be implemented accurately and reasonably
  • The archaeologist and machine operators should maintain respectful and open communication through verbal and nonverbal means, to maximize efficiency and safety


Even with the best of planning, there’s no guarantee that an archaeological find won’t result in a delay. Numerous factors can influence hold ups, including agency responsiveness and the requirements of legal documents (such as Programmatic Agreements and Memoranda of Agreements). However, having a monitor with thorough knowledge of construction and archaeology processes and strong agency relationships can be invaluable to appropriately deal with archaeological resources while maintaining construction schedules. We’ve found that good communication and cooperation between all parties ultimately leads to smoother resolution to unanticipated discoveries and fewer delays. If you have questions related to archaeological monitoring, please get in touch.

Madeleine Bray

Madeleine is a cultural resources specialist and Registered Professional Archaeologist with survey, excavation, and project management experience in the United States, Greece, and Israel. Madeleine has supervised archaeological monitoring efforts for construction projects throughout the U.S.

Adam Kaeding

Adam’s experience in archaeology spans North America, Central America, and Asia. Adam has worked closely with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, monitors, Elders, and community members. He has excellent professional relationships with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), Offices of State Archaeologist (OSA), Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and many Tribal Historic Preservation Officers.