Friday, January 20, 2012

An Overview of PASS and the CRGIS

For the past year or so, we have blogged on significant topics in Pennsylvania archaeology presenting them in alphabetical order. Beginning next week we are going to blog on the archaeology of each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Proceeding through the counties in alphabetical order, we will blog on the highlights of each county such as the number of historic and prehistoric sites, the most significant site or sites, the important sites that have been excavated or even famous archeologists from the county. To put archaeological sites and archaeological survey in perspective we are going to begin with an overview of our Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) files and our Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS). This will be presented by our CRGIS staff of Noel Strattan (supervisor), Tom Held and Dave Maher.

An Overview of PASS and the CRGIS 


Tom Held, Noel Strattan and Dave Maher

Since its inception, the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (P.A.S.S.) has recorded nearly 22,000 archaeological sites spread throughout Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. People from all walks of life, professional and non-professional archaeologists, concerned citizens, school groups and other youth based organizations, have all submitted information for the recordation of sites. Pennsylvania has been occupied by people for 16,000 thousand years. Because of this, recorded sites range in date anywhere from Paleoindian times to the 20th century. Site types vary from overnight campsites to agricultural villages to industrial complexes. Each year, at the annual meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc., the CRGIS staff produces a summary report of the recorded archaeological sites. The report details the number of newly recorded sites by county, the total number of recorded sites and the densities per square mile. If you are interested in researching or learning more about Pennsylvania’s known archaeological sites, you should spend some time searching through the CRGIS database at .

The CRGIS is a web based map and data searching tool that provides a way for the public to view information on the known sites of Pennsylvania. The data that we collect and make available for public viewing consists of site name, site type, artifacts that were collected, nearest water sources, and environmental data to name a few. The environmental data consists of information such as if the site is located in the saddle of a ridge or if it is in the flood plain, soil types, bedrock geology, and others. Even though we do not make the site locations available to the public through the map portion of the site, we do make all of the data available through an AskReGIS search. AskReGIS is a text based query tool that allows the user to search by county, municipality, drainage, or physiographic zone. The search can then be modified to more specific criteria by clicking the “When” or “What Else?” buttons. In the “When” you can specify the time period you are interested in. In the “What Else?” you can search by Site Name, Site Type, Topographic Setting, National Register Status, type of artifacts found, type of lithic material found, and more. The last step is to click the “Search Now” button to see the results.
The information we have within the database is only as good as what we have received. If you have more information on a Pennsylvania site or know of one that is not yet recorded, please fill out a PASS form and send it to our office.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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