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State Conservation And Rescue Archaeology Program > About SCRAP
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The Importance of Archaeology
What SCRAP is
SCRAP Training
SCRAP Certification
The Legal Basis of SCRAP

Avocationals, Academics and Field Schools:The New Hampshire Experience

SCRAP photo


The Importance of Archaeology

New Hampshire contains an array of archaeological sites worth protecting. These sites are a non-renewable resource which, collectively, constitute a unique record of human achievement spanning at least 12,000 years, from the first human occupation after the retreat of the glaciers, through the displacement of Native American Indian cultures by European colonists, and up to the recent past.

Archaeological sites are a tangible source of information on the cultures of New Hampshire’s Native American Indians before the arrival of Europeans. For the historic period, archaeological sites balance, expand, corroborate and contradict the written and oral records of the past. In addition, archaeology can enhance our lives in these ways:

    • Archaeology adds diversity to experience by lifting us out of the limitations of our own time and place.
    • Archaeology stimulates in human ecology by illustrating both successful and unsuccessful patterns of interaction between cultures and environments.
    • Archaeology’s vast time-depth sharpens our sense of change and documents the long term causes and effects of human activities.
    • Archaeology fosters our awareness of ethnicity while at the same time enabling our recognition of a common human heritage.

What SCRAP is

The New Hampshire State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program (SCRAP) is a public participation program for archaeological research, management, and education. SCRAP is administered by the Archaeology Bureau in the Division of Historical Resources (DHR) of the New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources. The program is supported by state and federal funds, donated private funds, and the volunteered services of trained and certified avocational archaeologists.

As a part of its research and management responsibilities, the Archaeology Bureau conducts workshops to train interested members of the public in archaeological research skills, interpretation, conservation, and education. By making more people aware of archaeology, and by involving the public in its practice, SCRAP seeks to increase the rate of site discovery and evaluation, to reduce the rate of site destruction, to recover information from archaeological sites about to be destroyed, and to conduct original research.

This pamphlet signals a continuing commitment to public archaeology in New Hampshire. Avocational training and certification have a long history in the state. Avocational training and certification have along history in the state. New Hampshire began one of the nation’s first certification programs in 1978, and in 1981 the General Court passed legislation which made New Hampshire the first state in the country to mandate the training and certification of avocational archaeologists. Since then, SCRAP has gained national exposure from papers presented at professional meetings and from articles in publications such as the Federal Archaeology Report.

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SCRAP Training

The heart of SCRAP is its program of avocational training and certification. Each year participants donate between 6,000 and 9,000 hours to the DHR through SCRAP, and over the years more than 1000 SCRAP participants have been certified.

The basic unit of SCRAP training is the workshop, and SCRAP offers two skill levels in seven areas for a total of 14 SCRAP workshops. The full list of workshops includes:

Excavation I and II Site Survey I and II Background Research I and II Conservation I and II
Laboratory I and I Interpretation I and II Education I and II  

In addition to these workshops in terrestrial archaeology, Excavation I, Site Survey I, and Background Research I also offered in underwater archaeology, in cooperation with the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State College.

SCRAP workshops, directed by the staff of the Archaeology Bureau, are offered at various times throughout the year and are publicized in the SCRAP Paper, an occasional newsletter which contains a calendar of SCRAP events.

While these workshops cover a wide variety of archaeological topics, SCRAP is not intended as professional training. Rather, SCRAP certification recognizes individuals with an avocational interest in archaeology who have attained prescribed levels of proficiency and who desire to participate in research under professional supervision.

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SCRAP Certification

Several kinds of certification are available to SCRAP participants.

Most individuals enter SCRAP by taking one of the program’s 14 workshops. Certificates of Achievement are awarded to SCRAP participants upon completion of each workshop and the mastery of a specified set of skills.

In addition to these individual workshop certifications, SCRAP has a series of eight certifications that correspond roughly with state job classifications and labor grades, and a participant moves through the "personnel status series" by gaining experience and earning various combinations of individual workshop certifications. Certificates of Membership are issued to SCRAP participants to reflect each change in classification. These classifications give SCRAP participants credit for their archaeological skills and experience, and may qualify them for paying archaeological work, but more importantly, these classifications give the Archaeology Bureau a basis for attaching appropriate value to the volunteer time contributed to SCRAP.

Finally, Certificates of Appreciation are awarded, based on the SCRAP conservation ethic, to those individuals and groups who work with the Archaeology Bureau to make an outstanding contribution toward the stewardship of New Hampshire’s archaeological sites and collections. Categories of certification recognize SCRAP participants who monitor sites against vandalism, landowners who allow the study and preservation of sites on their land, and sponsors of SCRAP and its activities.

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The Legal Basis of SCRAP

RSA 227-C:10 AVOCATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION. The Division of Historical Resources shall provide a means for training nonprofessional persons in technical archaeological skills and shall acknowledge the achievement of those who have reached prescribed levels of proficiency in various aspects of archaeology. The individuals shall be encouraged to participate in field investigations authorized by the commissioner and supervised by the division. Certification is not to be misconstrued as an authorization to collect or excavate without a permit

Avocationals, Academics and Field Schools: The New Hampshire Experience

Richard A. Boisvert, Ph.D. and Sarah W. Dunham
State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program,
New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources

Presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology,
Philadelphia, PA, April 2000

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has operated an avocational archaeology certification program since 1984. Integral to this program have been the annual summer field schools which have included both avocational archaeologists and students enrolled for academic credit. This combination has created a distinct and unusually effective learning environment. This paper will present a brief description of the program and the advantages that have accrued because of this approach.

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources (DHR) serves as the State Historic Preservation Office and has duties defined in its enabling state statues that are rare, if not unique among SHPOs. The DHR is required to carry out a program of archaeological research, including surveys, excavation, scientific recording, interpretation and publication (NHRSA 227-C:4) and to train and certify nonprofessional persons in the technical skills of archaeology (NHRSA 227-C:10). These statutes serve as the legislative basis of the State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program, or SCRAP. Other certification programs exist in the country; most prominently the university based Arkansas Archaeological Survey which served as the model for SCRAP when it was originally conceived in the late 1970's.

SCRAP accomplishes its goals of certification through individualized training, workshops, regularly scheduled laboratory sessions, and -the focus of our presentation here - the annual summer field schools. These field schools are designed to instruct both avocationals and students seeking academic credit. Plymouth State College has maintained along association with SCRAP, and serves as the academic host institution for the field schools.

Field school participants undergo thorough instruction on the basics of archaeological field recovery and recordation, identification of artifacts, fundamentals of artifact cleaning and cataloging, and archaeological ethics. Field instruction is based on hands-on participation, typically with more experienced crew working with novices. The field lab is operated concurrently with the field recovery and all crewmembers participate in both. This is supplemented with demonstrations and lectures, often provided by visiting colleagues, and field trips. The field school is structured as three successive 2-week sessions, and participants are obligated for at least a two-week commitment. Crew members with previous SCRAP field school experience typically constitute 1/3 to 1/2 of the participants and it is not unusual for an individual to register for one session and end up attending all three. Since its inception, SCRAP has certified several hundred individuals in the basics of field and lab work.

The academic students and avocational volunteers are drawn from across the country, coming from as far away as Alaska and Guam. The varied motivations for participation make for a most eclectic mix of participants and this gives the SCRAP field school their unique flavor. High school and undecided college students often turn to SCRAP to confirm interests in archaeology and anthropology through a meaningful hands-on field experience. Students already pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology and archaeology often use the experience to sharpen their technical skills, earn credit, learn specifically about the archaeology of New Hampshire, as well as get a bearing on what they want to do in the impending "real world." However, the core constituency of the field schools is the avocationals who typically constitute two thirds of the field crews. These are individuals from extraordinarily diverse backgrounds whose motivations generally center on a fascination with the archaeology of the region and a desire to become personally involved in it. Some come equipped only with knowledge gleaned from the National Geographic and NOVA specials, others have world wide excavation experience. Interest in archaeology as a hobby draws volunteers from innumerable professions, as well as a number of retirees. Most often avocationals cite a lifelong fascination with archaeology and are surprised to find a program within their budget, geographical area, and experience level. SCRAP gives them the opportunity to learn firsthand how archaeology operates in a real setting and has managed to "convert" several collectors and dissuade individuals from conducting their own "excavations." The program provides a safe and ethical outlet for individuals with a nagging interest in archaeology.

The field schools also attract two other small but significant groups. One is composed of professional archaeologists who step out of their roles as CRM specialists and volunteer their time and considerable talents to the field schools. Their stated rationale is typically that they are interested in the specific sites under investigation, but we suspect that they may also be revisiting their roots and renewing their early motivations in the discipline. The other group is composed of participants who have a Native American ancestry who seek to investigate their own history in a direct and concrete fashion. Clearly, the SCRAP field schools attract and serve an extremely broad constituency.

This categorization of individuals and their motivations is by necessity somewhat restricted and artificial. For many people their status may be viewed as multiple or transitional. Avocationals often move on to become students, some students with professional aspirations may alter their career choices but retain an abiding interest in archaeology. The primary function of SCRAP is, of course, to train avocational archaeologists. The field schools address this goal, but by expanding the pool of participants beyond just this one group, we find that we not only meet the needs of the other groups but that we also provide a better experience for the avocationals. A fascinating byproduct, not originally anticipated, has been a very real appreciation of capabilities that cross generational lines. College students find that avocationals in their 60's and even 70's are not only active but extremely capable at both field work and analysis. By the same token, many of these older avocationals discover that not every college student is a slacker. Stereotypical images rapidly dissolve in the dust and tedium of field archaeology.

The blend of backgrounds involved in SCRAP makes for a rich atmosphere in which to conduct research. Students learn from working with avocationals that good work can be done without professional status, and avocationals often benefit from new ideas proposed by the students. The fact that students and avocationals are on equal ground in terms of their participation in the field school allows a greater degree of freedom to put forth ideas. Professional CRM archaeologists take orders from the supervisors just as the students do, and certainly such treatment builds confidence in the students' abilities. While the credit students work on their mandatory projects, they often take comfort in the relaxed attitude of the avocationals, and as a result find themselves in an unfamiliar but ideal work environment. The atmosphere of the field school lacks the stress of an institutional field school in which all participants are primarily concerned with grades.

There is a conscious effort not to treat the various groups within the field school in a hierarchical fashion. Our explicit approach to education is to take each participant on an individual basis and work with them so that they may achieve a concrete step forward in their development as an archaeologist. Credit students are obligated to complete a project (it may be a research paper, photo essay, lesson plan or even a watercolor painting) as part of their academic requirements, but the avocationals are also encouraged and supported to take on similar projects. Perhaps one of the best examples of this success were the two sessions presented at the 1996 New England Anthropological Association annual conference by SCRAP volunteers where some 14 papers were presented. The accomplishments of the avocational in this arena can be explained, at least in part, by their affiliation with the academic students on the field schools.

Perhaps one of the most ambitious projects was the immersion of an entire elementary school into a week of Paleoindian study. One of our volunteers, a retired teacher, facilitated with the staff of the Jefferson Elementary School a week long course of study culminating in an "archaeology day". The children visited an excavation in process at one of the Paleo sites (where we have invested over 3 years of research), observed a flintknapper at work, participated in a simulated dig in their multi-purpose room and learned that there is much more to archaeology than digging. Out of this experience, the staff and school children produced a 20 minute long Powerpoint presentation and 64 page book entitled "History in the Making - A Paleo-Indian Celebration" The book was presented to the community at a ceremony one evening that included every elementary student in the town plus their families. The goodwill and appreciation for archaeology that was generated from this event is invaluable and could not have been obtained except through the involvement of the diverse membership of the SCRAP field school participants.

The NH State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program acts as a vehicle for public awareness of archaeology. SCRAP provides a solid introduction to the discipline, teaching an understanding of "real-life" archaeology and ethical methods. While the goal of the program is to train avocational archaeologists, the open requirements for admission provide not only a diverse crew but allow for a valuable combination of experience that benefits all involved. We have found that the interest of the students and talents of avocationals and professionals are complimentary to one another in a field school setting and produce and exceptionally unique learning and research environment.



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