Archaeology can be pretty slow in the winter, but like you, we’re gearing up for the spring field season!   We thought we’d PASS some time updating a few things.

Thinking of spring on these grey winter days.

Thinking of spring on these grey winter days.

As we have been changing other forms and procedures over the past year, we felt it was also time to refresh the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) form.  Like the revised archaeological site identification criteria, this was developed through the joint efforts of PA SHPO and State Museum archaeologists.

Our goals for this revision were to:

  • Improve the quality of collected data
  • Ensure a more complete resource record
  • Prepare for electronic submission through CRGIS
  • Better protect confidential information
  • Update the form instructions with new web resources

There are a few important things to note up-front:

  • There will be a three-month transition period for adopting the new form. New site submissions using older versions will not be accepted after April 30, 2018.
  • While you should still include final copies of the PASS form in your reports, you no longer need to send additional printed copies. Digital PASS forms are now being directly attached to CRGIS records!
  • A Microsoft Word version of the form is available upon request, and a fillable PDF version will be added to the SHPO website soon. Please contact to get a copy!
  • The administrative information page is now a separate form that will be viewable by SHPO staff only. After you submit a new site or update with this information, we do not need additional copies of the administrative page. Help us protect information about informants and landowners—do not include administrative pages in reports!

What’s new and different?

There are small changes throughout the form, many of which involve checkbox choices, form structure, or organization. Options have been added to update the form’s terminology and account for new and different ways that archaeologists are working.  For example, the site discovery method now has choices for archaeological geophysics (formerly remote sensing), metal detecting, and mechanical removal (which can include trenching, stripping, or unanticipated discoveries during project construction). A few sections underwent substantial change, as described below.

In addition to substantive changes, the PASS form has gotten a slight “make-over” to look more like other SHPO forms.

In addition to substantive changes, the PASS form has gotten a slight “make-over” to look more like other SHPO forms.


In the previous version of the PASS form, features were separated into pre-contact and historic feature tables, with some similar choices in both (Midden Areas vs Midden; Postmolds vs Posthole/Postmold). On the other hand, these are listed alphabetically in CRGIS data entry.  Anticipating some confusion in the shift to digital submission, we reworked the features list to make the types more consistent, clarify temporal association, and add new historic feature types.  Now, the form has one feature table that is sorted alphabetically, with pre-contact and historic identifiers where needed.

Projectile points and table.

The new projectile points table will make it easier to document ambiguous point types. The new projectile points table will make it easier to document ambiguous point types.

Pre-Contact Artifacts

The biggest single change to the PASS form is the removal of the diagnostic point and pottery tables, which took up nearly two pages of the form and were not always used. Recognizing that artifact identification can vary (even highly-experienced lithic specialists disagree on typology), we opted to emphasize descriptive classification of point types based on form.  The table now includes morphological categories (like fluted point, bifurcated point, side-notched point), with columns where you can fill in chronological placement and diagnostic type.

No more hemming and hawing over hard-to-identify point types! By choosing a descriptive point category, we will still get better information than simply “chipped stone tools.”  If you conducted analysis and identified specific point types, add those to the diagnostic column and include photographs of those artifacts with the form.

Similarly, the ceramics table has been shortened to include general ceramic types (for example: Early Woodland, non-diagnostic, or sherds that are too small for analysis). There is a column where you can enter diagnostic types if they are known.

It can be challenging to capture the sheer variety of historic artifacts in a single form!

It can be challenging to capture the sheer variety of historic artifacts in a single form!

Historic Artifact Matrix

A couple of changes affect the recordation of historic artifacts.   First, the functional classes have been changed from South’s artifact categories to a simplified version of the Sonoma Historic Artifact Research Database (SHARD) classification system.  The increased number of options allows for more refined classification and accommodates for increasing numbers of 20th century sites.  The specific artifact categories will also help researchers who are interested in certain themes, such as grooming and health, commerce, or transportation.

The second change relates to diagnostic artifacts. Like pre-contact artifacts, the historic section no longer contains a table with specific diagnostic types.  Dating historic artifacts can be very complicated—often relying on decorative nuance as much as ware type—and a comprehensive list of solidly datable artifacts would be too expansive to fit in a single form.  Rather than limit choices to a list of pre-determined diagnostics, we added a diagnostic column to historic artifact matrix.  The full artifact inventory you include with the PASS form will then show the specific types of diagnostic artifacts present in the site.

What else goes with the form?

There are four attachment types that must be included with every new site in order to get a number: administrative information page, topographic map with site location and boundary, a minimum site narrative, and an artifact inventory. In addition, a few attachments are conditionally required, so pay attention to the last page of the form for more information.

As you work through the new form, many of the fields and choices will look familiar. The updated instructions provide helpful tips for completing the form, but if you have additional questions please contact us at