Earlier this year, PA SHPO issued its PA Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) report  for 2022.  Definitely add the PASS report to your “must read” list because it is chock full of interesting information about archaeology in Pennsylvania.

By the Numbers

In 2022, 365 new archaeological sites were added to the PASS files, bringing the statewide total to 26,701 recorded sites. This represents a 15% increase in site recording from 2021.

Sites were recorded through a variety of sources, summarized by the table below:

SourceSites Recorded%
PHMC Research318.49%
SHPO Managed Survey246.58%

The majority of sites were recorded through cultural resources management (CRM) projects, accounting for nearly 80% of all newly recorded sites.  The second highest source for new site recordation came from research projects undertaken by individuals working for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). A total of 31 sites were recorded in Dauphin, Lancaster, Luzerne, Northumberland, Perry, and Snyder counties as part of an ongoing fish weir research project.

In 2022, we introduced a new recording source: SHPO Managed Survey. This was as a result of incorporating an archaeological survey component into our baseline survey program which focuses on identifying and recording underrepresented historic resources across Pennsylvania. In total, SHPO managed surveys accounted for almost 7% of all newly recorded sites.

Rounding out our site counts for 2022, 32 sites were recorded by Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) members, avocational archaeologists, independent research projects, and members of the public.

Of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, 51 had at least one newly recorded site. The top ten counties with the most sites recorded last year are as follows: Forest, Dauphin, Luzerne, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Lehigh, Lycoming, Northumberland, Armstrong, and Perry.

For the second year in a row, Forest County takes the gold metal for the highest number of sites recorded for the year with a staggering 112 sites! For more information on how many sites were recorded in each county last year, see the PASS Report on the PHMC’s website.

Color-coded map of Pennsylvania

Map displaying the number of new sites recorded in each county last year.

Every year, the PASS report contains contributions from guest authors highlighting various projects that contributed to the PASS files. This year, four guest authors provided interesting and informative pieces on the following topics: recent excavations on Duncan’s Island located at the confluence of the Juniata and Susquehanna rivers, a historic Corner Store site in Beaver County, and unraveling the ambiguous stone landscape sites that are found throughout eastern Pennsylvania. The full articles can be found in the 2022 PASS Report.

Array of shapes on two sides of a paper.

Sample of artifacts recovered from Duncan’s Island excavations.

SHPO Survey Activities

The PASS program ramped up pro-active survey efforts this past year with the introduction of several new survey initiatives, all with the goal of improving archaeological stewardship in the Commonwealth. Below is a summary of the activities that took place in 2022.


 Surveyor was launched in the August of 2021 as a set of survey tools, integrated with PA-SHARE, to facilitate the collection of both above ground and archaeological resources. In Surveyor, resource information is capture using standardized forms for above ground, archaeological, and district resources. The information fields present on the forms are the same as those in PA-SHARE, providing consistently across both platforms.

Since its launch, Surveyor has been used in the PASS program by multiple CRM firms to successfully capture site information, most notably, to record sites during our baseline survey effort.

Two people standing in a field with a wood screen and a shovel.

PA SHPO archaeologists Justin McKeel (left) and Casey Hanson (right) surveying a site in Montgomery County. Surveyor was used to capture this site directly in the field.

Baseline Survey

 If you are an avid PA SHPO blog reader you already know all about our baseline survey program, but for any newcomers the baseline survey is a multi-year survey initiative that aims to document a significant number of underrepresented historic resources across a vast geographic area of Pennsylvania quickly and efficiently.

Some of the priorities resource types for baseline efforts include African American church and cemeteries, resources associated with racial and ethnic communities, recreational properties, 20th century resources and industrial resources.

In Year 2 of this initiative, the concept of surficial archaeological evidence was developed to help account for remnants of properties that had been demolished. In the context of baseline survey, surficial archaeological evidence is the indication of one or more former structures or activity areas that are visible on the surface, such as foundations, middens, other features or altered terrain, that are 50 years old or older.

While the focus of this project is on visible evidence, the lack of such evidence does not mean that a potential archaeological site does not exist, particularly if suggested by background research. In total, 306 potential archaeological sites were captured throughout 16 counties during Year 2. Of these potential areas, 24 were determined to include adequate information to receive an official PASS number in 2022. Areas that did not receive PASS numbers serve as opportunities for future archaeological research and investigation.

Stones forming a round opening and covered with vegetation.

Kelly Station Coke Ovens (36AR0601) in Armstrong County. Recorded as a result of baseline survey in 2022.

Survey of PHMC Properties

 In the spring of 2022, PA SHPO initiated the survey of five properties owned by the PHMC. The surveys were conducted by a Keystone Intern for the Mapping, Assistance, Resources, and Surveys (MARS) section within the PA SHPO.

The focus of the survey was on capturing updated information for individual buildings on the property and areas of archaeological potential based on the absence of once extant historic structures or other visible features. These areas were found through analyzing previous survey reports and comparing historic and aerial imagery to present day conditions during field work. This is part of a muti-year plan to survey all PHMC-owned properties which are located throughout the Commonwealth to showcase and educate the public on Pennsylvania’s unique history.

The PASS program would like to thank all those that contributed to and supported our efforts this year! We looked forward to continuing a collaborative, cooperative, and informative PASS program in 2023. From more information on site registration and survey, please contact Taylor Napoleon at tnapoleon@pa.gov.

To learn more about site recording and survey initiatives in 2022, please see the full 2022 PASS Report found here: https://www.phmc.pa.gov/Preservation/About/Documents/PASS_Report_2023.pdf