Historic, Industrial and Urban Archaeology

Landmark archaeologists and specialists have diverse experience in the historic, industrial, and urban archaeology fields; all of which share common research methodology.

Historic archaeology examines human behavior and activity in North America since contact with or colonization by people of European descent. Time periods prior to European contact fall under the "prehistoric" category. Historic archaeology can be as simple as following a historic wagon trail through a modern cornfield, or as complicated as excavating several city blocks of a 19th Century factory complex. Landmark personnel have examined historic sites from the 18th Century up to modern times, and have dealt with, pioneer cemeteries, historic battlefields, homesteads, canal systems, rail yards, mills, factories, commercial districts, waterways, dams, bridges, quarries, mines, lime kilns, furnaces and entire historic districts.

The historic archaeologist needs to be familiar with a wide range of subjects, including historic architecture, settlement pattern analysis, historic artifact analysis, urban utility history, documents research, oral history, industrial processing and manufacturing, past technologies and engineering practices, and such mundane topics as where was the most likely location of the family outhouse? Through historic archaeology, new information is gathered on how battles were fought, how people migrated, how ethnic groups lived, and how historic groups and individuals defined themselves through the material remains that they left behind. In many cases, historic archaeology supports or contributes to the work of historians. However, historic archaeology often generates new questions or totally refutes what has been written in historic documents.

Industrial archaeology is a specialization of historic archaeology that concentrates on the development of industrial technology, the spatial lay-outs of industrial buildings, and the interaction of workers, commerce, transportation, and raw resources with the industrial site. Old industrial buildings are one of the most threatened classes of archaeological sites in the United States. Usually, the remains of old factories, kilns, forges, offices, foundries, etc. are much less visually appealing for preservation than homesteads or battlefields. The nature of the sites, with brick or masonry structures sometimes over a hundred feet high, also makes the task of preservation and interpretation more difficult. The information that can be gathered from older industrial sites, however, can provide exceptional insights into how modern industries developed and how the American economy expanded through time.

Older Industrial sites, like slave quarters or ethnic barios, usually have few records that provide information on how industrial sites worked, how workers interacted with management, and how the larger settlement of company housing, stores, and the central factory interacted. Archaeology is one discipline that can provide distinct insights into these research questions.

Urban archaeology examines the development of towns and cities. It is nearly impossible today to construct a new building in a modern American city without impacting one or more past structures, foundations, ship yards, rail lines, storage tanks, or any number of other historic urban features. The urban archaeologist acts as a forensic engineer, peeling back the historic layers of city construction to reveal the past urban landscape. Understanding the past landscape of a city is extremely important to modern construction projects, and directly relates to overall project costs, time tables, and feasibility, as well as whether cultural resources important to the city or nation are likely to be impacted.

Even though archival evidence and documentation depicting historic archaeological sites often exists, their importance is sometimes overlooked during the planning stages of modern development. Landmark has the personnel and depth of experience to undertake comprehensive studies of historic and industrial sites that may potentially be impacted by development projects, and the wherewithal to assist from beginning to end in any necessary compliance process.

GIS Analysis and Computer-aided Mapping

GIS software is a natural platform with which to assemble archaeological data for analysis and presentation. Landmark specialists have expertise with ArcView GIS, the established standard for desktop GIS analysis and map preparation. Geographic data, such as site or artifact location coordinates, may be merged with Computer Aided Design (CAD), database or spreadsheet data and queried thematically for analysis. Landmark maintains a growing archive of digital cartographic maps, GIS layers and custom references including but not limited to Digital Elevation Model (DEM), USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle maps in Digital Raster Graphic (DRG) format and digitized soil survey maps. Landmark is capable of creating and or applying project specific GIS analysis techniques and will endeavor to support any reference map theme requested by our clients.

Artifact Analysis

Artifacts collected during archaeological survey are typically returned to a laboratory environment where additional examination and detailed analysis are undertaken. The Landmark lab is staffed with experienced technicians responsible for cleaning, identifying, stabilizing, and recording the attributes of collected artifacts.

Landmark personnel have broad experience processing artifacts typical of the Midwestern United States and Ohio River valley regions. Prehistoric flaked and ground stone tools, ceramics and bone artifacts; as well as, artifacts from historic period sites such as metals, glass and ceramics are identified, classified and dated by Landmark laboratory technicians prior to curation with an appropriate facility. Landmark also employs specialists who have focused training and expertise in specific areas of artifact analysis.


The study of plant remains from archaeological sites allows for reconstruction of prehistoric diet and inferences as to success or failure of adaptive strategies. Subsistence systems have changed over time and space, the significance of which may be gleaned from the study of plant materials. Paleoethnobotany is an examination of the archaeological plant remains (such as carbonized seeds, nuts and nutshells, wood and charcoal) so as to provide indicators of human behavior. More than simply a quantitative exercise, much is taken into consideration during analysis as macro and micro plant remains may be studied to elucidate information as to climate changes and as an indicator of season.

At Landmark, the plant recovery system employed is an SMAP-type flotation machine (called Piyush One). Heavy fraction and light fraction analysis follows recovery. Light fraction analysis and identification is accomplished through the use of an in-house comparative collection as well as by The Indiana State Seed Lab Herbarium at Purdue University. Further evaluation of botanical remains may be rendered by means of scanning electron microscopy and radio carbon dating of charcoal.

Landmark strives to provide prompt, comprehensive paleoethnobotanical analysis using state-of-the-art equipment while observing sensitivity to cultural remains.