This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Barbara Wyatt: Our last speaker is Mike Russo. Mike’s regular job is the division lead of the external programs at SEAC, the Southeast Archeological Center, but we’re absolutely delighted to have him in Washington serving as the Erica Siebert stand-in, he is our National Register NHL archeologist and he has done that for couple months now, I guess, and will be there maybe another month. He’s added significantly to our knowledge while he’s been with us in Washington. He’s got a PhD in Archeology from the University of Florida. He also worked in the State of Louisiana as a regional archeologist, but he has been with NPS now for twenty years. Mike, thank you so much.
Mike Russo: Thanks. As Barbara mentioned, I’m the acting archeologist. It seems that the National Register program runs out of archeologists frequently and they bring so many in. There is a, I would say, chronic under representation of archeology in the National Register, not for any lack of time, but from just the way it’s been set up. It’s traditionally been dominated by historians and I think the ratio now is like 13 to 1, and that one guy is acting only.
My expertise on these topics we’ve talked about, they are all policy topics, and what the National Register represents in terms of landscape guidance. When I first got there they asked me, Barbara asked me to discuss if I would, the archeological aspects of landscape guidance and how our guidance guides people and is a good or bad, with the high and low spots of it. So, that’s what I have done. I’ve reviewed all the bulletins and you are all familiar with the bulletins. And all the bulletins I reviewed they’re all out in the docket outside there, and please make yourself available to those. And I have concluded this, there are virtually no National Register guidelines specific to maritime cultural landscapes and certainly none specific to archeological MCLs.
Given policy earlier suggestion that the Register by law and design recognize only five property types, and that the landscape is not considered a property type. It probably becomes no surprise then that the limited Register guidance on specific types of landscapes in fact maybe understandable. That is, there is also no Register specific guidance on how to nominate the 19th century road or a 20th century subway track or turpentine camp or roller coaster or human versus animal migration trail, although all of these have been listed or eligible for listing on the National Register. This is because the National Register guidance is purposely general in character to accommodate virtually any historically significant place in America.
Let’s see if this works. Okay. That being said, there are places so unusual, so different from properties first envisioned by the National Register program that those places have been engendered separate guideline specific to those resource types such as mines, ships, navigational aids, and battle fields, and of course landscapes represent another. There are in fact two specific National Register guidelines on landscapes. The first being the National Bulletin 18 published in 1981, some fifteen years after the establishment of the Register itself, and it dealt with designed urban landscapes whose contributing elements were primarily … included buildings and structures, but also open design lands such as parks and gardens. And the bulletin still serves well the nomination of historic urban landscape features to the Register, but the word archeology, and I’m talking here about archeological landscapes, is mentioned only twice in the fourteen-page document. And those mentions are not discussed at all how to integrate archeological resources into nominations for standing historic properties usually nominated under criterion C for period masterwork or artistic distinction.
In 1990, Bulletin 30, on rural historic landscapes was released to provide guidance in nominating all other non-urban landscapes including, as examples, a couple maritime landscape themes, fishing and shipping, distinguishing urban from rural landscapes primarily by the differences in the ratio of the built environment that consisted of building and structures such as ranches, fences and roads, from the natural environment consisting of landforms and vegetation cover, including forest, brush and modified lands such as farm fields. As long as people had worked in, manipulated or otherwise affected the natural environment or features in some historically significant way, rural landscapes were seen as potentially eligible for the Register.
Under Bulletin 30, natural features could not be seen as part of the rural landscape unless they had “reflected the day to day occupational activities of people engaged in traditional work, who have developed and involved to the natural features in response to both forces of natures and the pragmatic need to make a living.” That is the historic significance of a rural historic landscape in the view of NR under Bulletin 30 was that it reflects people’s adaptations to the national environment and archeological parlance, a predominantly perceptual view for archeology.
For archeology, Bulletin 30 was far more substantial than Bulletin 18 had been. It mentioned archeological sites nineteen times stressing their potential landscape features akin to building and structures when observable and such things as relic house foundations, stone fences or dirt roads. Calling such an approach a landscape archeological approach; however. Buried observable archeological deposits were not identified in any of the many examples as holding the potential between the constitute a landscape in their own right without the presence of man-made vegetation or natural features above the ground surface meeting criterion C requirements, aesthetic or emblematic work of a period or masterwork builder. That is no clear definition as to what may or may not constitute a criterion D archeological landscape or its features as presented. In fact, the term archeological landscape was never used in NR 30 or in any other National Register guidance.
Why we ask? One part of the answer may be found in Bulletin 36. I think that’s Bulletin 36, yes. Guideline for evaluating Register ing archeological properties. It states that under criterion A, B, and C, the National Register must place a heavy emphasis on the property looking like it did during the period of significance. That is landscapes from the typical NR perspectives are typically viewable entities preserved in time. And I think our early discussion on showing what a landscape looks like kind of reinforces that idea. Few, if any, are constitute solely of unobservable stains or artifacts buried underground that need technical interpretations to recon their historical significance, let alone determine what landscape they used to be on.
Thousands of archeological sites are listed under criterion D strictly for their informational potential but when the aesthetic and visual aspects expected of a landscape meet this hidden resources, landscape discussions disappear. Like previous Bulletin 36 presented no clean definition of or guidelines for dealing with strictly archeological landscapes, the lack above ground features, but the bulletin did present one example of an archeological landscape with no apparent above ground presence of its archeology. But again, it just seems in this case, surface agitation reflected the historic period of interest provided and provided the aesthetic requirement under criterion C and that’s why it is nominated as a landscape. The major goal of archeology according to Bulletin 36 was to understand the effects of environmental change and population pressure, and the impact of human action on landscape. A concept directly linked to Building 30’s concept of rural historic landscapes.
In Bulletin 21, there’s also some information although the title would suggest that it’s got probably more information on landscapes than all but the rural historical … archeological landscapes … and all about the rural historic bulletin, and I’d recommend reading that if you want to get some interesting ideas on how to bound archeological landscapes. But in this, no definition of landscapes is presented either. It does offer examples of landscapes as bounded sites and districts, some of which contain archeological deposits. Again, however, all landscapes with archeological features are considered landscapes only under criterion C that is for the standing structures and their visible natural features like Bulletin 20, sees archeology primarily as handmade historic structures and in terms of landscapes, archeology is not mentioned without them or without aesthetic natural features present.
In the section concerning the boundaries of Register properties in general, six out of seventeen are described as landscapes or as containing landscapes features including archeological sites with no surface expressions or whatsoever. But when the reader turns to the section titled Boundaries for Archeological Sites and Districts, wherein criterion D is the primary criterion of significance, none of the sites or districts are viewed as landscapes or landscape features, despite the fact that both environmental and cultural data could constitute a rural historic landscape are present, but buried and hidden. In one example, archeological components are explicitly excluded from landscape features, feature recognition, while at the same time natural features are identified as landscape components. I suspect they are hidden. If we take a look at the dictionary’s definition of landscapes, the visual aspect is of course critical, but given the Register’s description, overall landscape is a sealed archeological landscape is a real possibility despite the fact that none are identified in guidance documents.
In the end, I suspect that the fact that no buried archeological sites or districts have ever been identified as landscapes in the NR owes as much to the fact that the Register simply does not track landscapes as a property guide as much as it has to do with the individual tendencies for us to think of landscapes only when surface and observable cultural and natural features are present. This brings me to finally to the question of is how to nominate archeological maritime landscapes if all contributing elements are buried underground or in deep or murky waters according to NR criteria. Do landscapes need a visible structure or building in order to list it? Or can completely buried archeological sites with no surface expression as landscape features constitute a landscape in and of themselves.
Technically, no register guidance requires observability as a criterion for contributing to a landscape district, but in practice, no district exist has been identified has a landscape that lacks visible features. This leaves open a question of purely buried archeological landscapes under the Register though most archeologist could easily identify cultural landscapes through other approaches and do to other approaches including catchments, settlement, nearest neighbor, are they spatially oriented analysis involving archeological and environmental data. As for observable shipwrecks, Bulletin 20 Nominating Historic Vessels and Shipwrecks to the National Register, provides a good overview of the unique problems inherited in locating and describing shipwrecks for the Register, although it doesn’t specifically talk about landscapes. For Register review purposes, wrecks and wreck elements are always seen as archeological sites even though on a comparative level is hypothesized that the best preserved among them might easily be classified as structures under criterion C. On the surface recognizing some wrecks and structures other than archeological sites would solve many problems concerning buried archeological landscapes or at least underwater landscapes that have observable features but lots of buried archeological features also.
But if the Register would do so to recognize this as structures rather than as archeological sites, other problems would arise. For one higher degree of integrity is required for structures than for archeological sites. Nonetheless and despite some of the NR guidance to the contrary, isolated shipwrecks have been listed under criterion D for the information potential as well as a criterion C for aesthetic or masterwork aspects. Why? As the bulletin notes, the application of National Registry criteria to shipwrecks has not been well defined or understood. I think clarifying when and how shipwrecks should be classified as structures and not archeological sites would be critical to any attempt as involving them as contributing elements in maritime landscapes districts.
In the end, the largest issue for the Register involving submerged landscapes will not be shipwrecks or drowned former terrestrial sites themselves; however, but rather how we connect them to the land. Under the NR, the current NR regulations, both the land and the culture resources constitute the landscape, but under rural historic landscapes criteria, perhaps the closest we have under which we could nominate a maritime cultural landscape, people or cultures are required to have worked or shaped or modified the land in order for it to be considered part of an historic landscape. I think John Jensen brought up this problem earlier on how to define boundaries.
In the case of shipwrecks with few exceptions; however, most historic and prehistoric sailors or passengers did not work the ocean bottom. The working life of the vessel was typically restricted with times of floating entity not its brief tenure of sinking or sunk one. What land, if any, becomes part of that natural landscape aspect of a shipwreck landscape? That is, the guidance suggested oceans, lakes, or river bottoms are not part of the archeological sites unless physical remains of the ships or its wrecking event can be found. If this idea is extended to shipwreck landscapes, this could be problematic. How do we get the greater natural features involved into finding shipwrecks and drown site cultural landscapes? I think that is a question that I’m looking for this symposium to answer. Thank you.