Archeological Consultants Working in Texas

Reviewers from three divisions within the Texas Historical Commission (THC)—Archeology, History Programs, and Architecture—work together to review projects conducted under state and federal preservation laws (see How the THC Reviews Projects). Please see the THC’s Project Review and Guidance and Agreements Documents pages for a general overview about complying with laws to protect historic properties (above-ground as well as archeological resources) in Texas, and guidance on the overall process. The information provided below is geared specifically to archeological professionals conducting work in Texas.

Texas Historical Commission (THC)
Texas State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

Federal undertakings (projects involving federal funding, permits, or federal or tribal land) must be reviewed under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which requires federal agencies to consider the indirect and direct effects of their undertakings on historic properties (archeological and above-ground historic resources listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places). The Executive Director of the THC serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), which is a mandatory consulting party in the Section 106 review process.

In addition, the THC administers the Antiquities Code of Texas (ACT), which established the designation of State Antiquities Landmarks (SALs) that may be applied to archeological sites and historic buildings*. The law also requires state agencies and political subdivisions of the state — including cities, counties, river authorities, some utility districts, and school districts — to provide the THC with advance notice prior to ground-disturbing activity on public land (including easements and rights-of-way) and designated SALs and in state waterways; allows the THC a 30-day period in which to review the project, and if deemed necessary, request an archeological survey be conducted prior to the construction; and requires a Texas Antiquities Permit be obtained prior to conducting archeological studies on SALs or on public land or waters owned or controlled by a state agency or political subdivision of the state. The Texas Administrative Code (TAC) outlines the duties of the THC and the Rules of Practice and Procedures for Cultural Resources.

Under the Texas Health & Safety Code (THSC) Chapter 711, cemeteries are defined as “a place that is used or intended to be used for interment, and includes a graveyard, burial park, mausoleum, or any other area containing one or more graves.” While the ACT applies only to lands owned or controlled by the state or a political subdivision and to designated SALs, the THSC applies to cemeteries on private and public land in Texas. The THC is also responsible for establishing rules regarding historic-age cemeteries (including unmarked/unknown, abandoned, and unverified cemeteries), which are addressed in TAC Chapter 22.  If an unknown or unverified cemetery is discovered, the discoverer must file a Notice of Existence of Cemetery within 10 days. The THC has developed a special form to report cemeteries discovered during the course of an archeological investigation, available in the Archeology section of the THC's Forms page. See the THC’s Cemetery Preservation webpage for additional information.

*See the Antiquities Code of Texas and State Antiquities Landmarks pages for more information about separate requirements under the ACT relating to above-ground historic resources on public land and designated SALs.

Getting Started with Archeology in Texas

Apply for Restricted Cultural Resource Information (RCRI) & eTRAC

Archeological site location data is confidential under both federals laws and the ACT (Sec. A191.004), TAC (§24.13), and Texas Government Code (Chapter 442, Sec. 442.007). Consultants should apply for Restricted Cultural Resource Information (RCRI) permission, which grants a user ID and password to access the restricted Texas Archeological Sites Atlas, a secure online database with maps of known cultural resources, surveys conducted, SHPO determinations, and abstracts and downloadable copies of many reports of investigations. Applicants for RCRI access should attach a detailed CV with their application to demonstrate they meet the restricted access criteria listed in the TAC. In addition, we recommend creating an Electronic THC Review and Compliance (eTRAC) system account so you can submit documents for review through the online system. The eTRAC webpage provides a user guide and FAQs, as well as the link to the eTRAC portal. 

Get Involved

Consultants can join the Council of Texas Archeologists (CTA) and be added to the Archeological Contractors List. The CTA develops professional guidelines and standards for Texas in consultation with the THC and holds biannual meetings for professionals to network, stay informed of industry updates, and present research. Their website also provides links to useful resources for conducting background and archival research. Many professional and avocational archeologists in Texas participate in the Texas Archeological Society (TAS), which hosts archeology training academies, a summer field school, and an annual meeting. The TAS website also provides contact information for regional archeological societies.

Qualifications, Standards & Guidelines

Professional Qualifications for Archeological Investigations

  • Federal Projects: Cultural resource consultants who are interested in conducting work in Texas under federal preservation laws should meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards.
  • State Projects: For investigations on Texas public lands and SALs and in state waterways performed under the ACT, Principal Investigators (PIs) must meet the Professional Qualifications and Requirements listed in TAC §26.4, which also provides the required qualifications for Professional Archeologists (both terrestrial and underwater) and Geomorphologists or Geoarcheologists. PIs should submit a current Curriculum Vitae (CV) to the THC via e-mail at archeo-permits@thc.texas.gov to demonstrate they meet the state requirements. CVs should be detailed, providing dates and duration of positions held, information about key projects, and publications. Once approved, PIs will be given access to the Archeological Permits menu in eTRAC to be able to submit permit applications online.

Standards & Guidelines for Archeological Investigations in Texas

Note: Federal agencies and other state/municipal agencies may have additional or specific standards to follow for projects conducted under Section 106 and/or local regulations. Please check with the lead agency to ensure the appropriate standards are employed.

Process & Procedures

Please note that the THC has 30 days to review any materials submitted, unless otherwise specified under the ACT. If additional information or revisions are needed to complete the review, the 30-day review clock will be reset once the additional/revised materials are submitted.

Project Review Process

Initial Project Consultation: Submit project information via eTRAC. THC reviewers will examine the submission and request additional information if needed. Once the review is complete the THC will determine whether:

  • No archeological work is required, receive THC Concurrence with No Historic Properties Affected, Project May Proceed

OR

  • Survey or other archeological work is required. This will consist of the following steps, at a minimum:
  1. Consult with the THC and applicable state/municipal and federal agencies on the Scope of Work and/or a Texas Antiquities Permit application (see below for procedure) if the project is in state waters, on an SAL, or on land owned or controlled by the state or a political subdivision.
  2. Once THC has concurred with the SOW and issued a Texas Antiquities Permit if needed: Conduct fieldwork, site recording and evaluation, and analysis in accordance with the standards and guidelines listed above.
  3. Submit a draft report and shapefiles of the surveyed area for review. Address agency comments and revisions, if requested.
  4. Once THC has concurred with the draft report:
    1. If no additional work is required, the project may proceed.
    2. Curate* project files and artifacts in accordance with applicable regulations (36 CFR 79 for federal projects and TAC §29.5 for projects conducted under the ACT).
    3. Provide Final Report to the THC, fill out an Abstract* form, and submit shapefiles* (if not already provided).
  5. Additional steps may be required if monitoring, eligibility testing, or mitigation is necessary.

*These steps are strongly recommended for all projects and are required for projects conducted under the Texas Antiquities Code.

Texas Antiquities Permits

For projects conducted on SALs, on lands owned or controlled by a political subdivision of the state, or in state waterways, consultants must obtain a Texas Antiquities Permit BEFORE the archeological investigations can commence. Projects conducted under Section 106 of the NHPA may require a separate federal permit (i.e., Archaeological Resources Protection Act [ARPA] permit) if work is to be conducted on federally owned or managed land in Texas; consultants must coordinate with the owning/managing federal agency for federal permits. Dual Jurisdiction projects are subject to both Section 106 of the NHPA and the ACT, and therefore the requirements of both regulations must be met. Rules regarding Texas Antiquities Permits are outlined in TAC §26.14.

  • Texas Antiquities Permit Application: The Texas Antiquities Permit Application must contain the information in TAC §26.13, including a map of the project area and a detailed scope of work. It must be signed by the landowner and sponsor (as defined in TAC §26.3) and the PI, who must meet the requirements under TAC §26.4. Once the application is complete and accepted, the reviewer will issue the permit number and expiration date. You may not begin investigations until you have received your permit number and expiration date.
  • Permit Amendment Request: In the event that there are changes to the project, including but not limited to the horizontal or vertical limits of the project area, impacts proposed, or research design, a permit amendment request must be submitted to and approved by the regional archeologist via e-mail prior to implementation.
  • Permit Transfer Application: If a PI moves to another firm, within 30 days the permit needs to be transferred to either the new firm or to a different PI at the original firm.
  • Permit Extension Application: Should the project not be completed by the expiration date on the permit, the PI may apply for an extension. The PI will be sent a notice 60 days prior to the expiration. First Extensions may be granted at the regional reviewer level; however, Second Extension requests must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission on the recommendation of the Antiquities Advisory Board, which meets quarterly. If requesting a Second Extension, please notify the Archeology Division at least 30 days before the quarterly meeting to be added to the agenda.

Failure to comply with these procedures may result in a permit violation, permit cancellation, or censuring.

How to Submit Documents to the THC for Review

Documents for review under Section 106 or the ACT may be submitted via the methods below.

Access/Submission Type Electronic Methodb
Restricted Cultural Resources Information (Texas Archeological Sites Atlas) Texas Archeological Sites Atlas: atlas.thc.texas.gov
Register for a New RCRI Account: atlas.thc.texas.gov/Account/Register
Registration Instructions: atlas.thc.texas.gov/files/RCRI_registration.html
(Please update account information when changing employers)
Electronic THC Review and Compliance (eTRAC) online submission system eTRAC information page: thc.texas.gov/etrac-system
eTRAC homepage: xapps.thc.state.tx.us/106Review/
Register: xapps.thc.state.tx.us/106Review/Account/Register
Antiquities Code of Texas Principal Investigator Approval Email detailed Curriculum Vitae (CV) to archeo-permits@thc.texas.gov
Once approved, you will be given PI access to the Archaeological Permits tab in eTRAC.
(Please provide an updated CV when changing employers)
Project Review Documents
(initial project consultation, scopes of work, draft reports, etc.)
Submit via eTRAC
(40 MB limit per attached file, multiple files may be uploaded to a project; for files over 40 MB, contact Laney.Fisher@thc.texas.gov for upload options)
Texas Antiquities Permit Application Submit via eTRAC under the Archeological Permits tab OR download paper copies from the THC's Forms page and e-mail to Bill.Martin@thc.texas.gov
(If you need access to the Archeological Permits tab in eTRAC contact Laney.Fisher@thc.texas.gov for assistance)
Permit Amendment Requests Email to Regional Reviewer and CC Laney.fisher@thc.texas.gov
Permit Transfers & Extension Applications Download Forms from thc.texas.gov/about/forms
Email to Regional Reviewer and CC Laney.Fisher@thc.texas.gov
Shapefiles of area investigatedb Email to archeological_projects@thc.texas.gov
Final Reportb (2 versions)
Restricted – with site location information
Public – with site location information redacted
Section 106 only: submit via eTRAC
(40 MB limit per attached file; for files over 40 MB, contact Laney.Fisher@thc.texas.gov for upload options)
TAP & Dual Jurisdiction: Email to Laney.Fisher@thc.texas.gov
Abstractb Submit via the Abstracts Database
(Will soon be available through the Abstracts tab in eTRAC)
a Due to the pandemic, electronic submissions are strongly preferred, and the requirement for hard copies of the final report for permitted projects has been waived. However, IN LIEU OF submitting docs electronically, they may be mailed to Archeology Division, P.O. Box 12276, Austin, TX 78711-2276; or hand delivered/via courier to Archeology Division, 108 W. 16th St., Austin, TX 78701-2276. Only send ONE copy via ONE method; do not submit copies both electronically and in paper form.
b These items are strongly recommended for all projects, but required for projects conducted under a Texas Antiquities Permit