The Texas Antiquities Code at Work

by Amy E. Reid

Amy Reid, working in the field during a survey

Amy Reid, working in the field during a survey

In my office, I have a large white binder sitting boldly on my bookshelf amongst a collection of comparatively under-used resources. This binder, labeled “Texas Antiquities Code: Rules, Laws, Regulations and Procedures,” contains a wealth of information and regulatory guidance pertinent to my profession as an archaeologist and as a collections manager. The Texas Antiquities Code (the Code) is one of the most important pieces of legislation governing the practice of cultural resource management (CRM) in Texas. The THC website contains a substantial amount of information about the Code. In addition, Mark Denton, an Archaeologist and Program Coordinator at the THC has written an excellent article on the history of the Code. Therefore, this post will focus more on how I use it and its present day application in the world of CRM.

The Code was enacted in 1969 to protect all publicly owned archeological sites and historic buildings in the state of Texas. The Texas Historical Commission (THC) serves as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), a service required by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and is the legal custodian of the Code. Therefore all cultural resources, including historic buildings, prehistoric archaeological sites, and shipwrecks fall within the jurisdiction of the THC. If you asked me back when I was a student if I thought I would ever care about or become an informed citizen regarding any government or law related issues, I would have said “not likely.” For the most part I am still relatively apathetic when it comes to government (as embarrassing as that is to admit), with the exception of CRM laws and regulations.

Removal of one of the underwater theaters at Spring Lake, May 2012. Projects like this one require close coordination with the Texas Historic Commission to ensure that priceless cultural resources are not impacted.

Removal of one of the underwater theaters at Spring Lake, May 2012. Projects like this one require close coordination with the Texas Historic Commission to ensure that priceless cultural resources are not impacted.

As an archaeologist for the Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS), I have participated in and directed archaeological investigations for the City of San Marcos and Texas State University. Since both the City and the University are political subdivisions of the State of Texas, they are required to comply with the Code. The Code requires that such projects consider the potential impact on any cultural resources that might be present and that might contribute information that is meaningful or significant to understanding the history or prehistory of the State of Texas. The Code generally requires that a complete archaeological survey be conducted prior to the start of projects that fall under its purview, particularly in previously unsurveyed locations and in regions where cultural resources are expected. Any resources that are determined to be significant must then be avoided, protected, or their destruction mitigated by data recovery plans approved by the THC.

Whether a project requires a survey, testing, or data recovery level investigations, the work can only be conducted under a Texas Antiquities Permit issued by the THC. The code also designates historic structures and archaeological sites as State Antiquities Landmarks (SALs) if they meet the evaluation criteria defined in Chapter 26 (26.7 and 26.8) Rules and Procedures for administering the Antiquities Code of Texas. So, as you can imagine, I frequently refer to the Code for project planning, evaluation, reporting and for making recommendations on the best methods of managing and protecting significant cultural resources.

The code also applies greatly to my role as collections manager since it requires that all materials recovered from investigations under a Texas Antiquities Permit be properly stored and made available to the public for study. According to the code, all antiquities found on land or under waters belonging to the State of Texas or any political subdivision of the State belong to the State of Texas and the THC is responsible for ensuring their protection and managing their use by the people of Texas. In addition to asserting the disposition of State archaeological collections, the code defines the subjective and often overlooked adverb: properly. Generally, state-associated collections are placed in curatorial facilities in Texas, like CAS. The stewardship of a collection, not the ownership, is transferred to the curatorial facility and made official by a document known as a Held-in-Trust (HIT) agreement form. As required by the Texas Administrative Code Title 13, Part II, Chapter 29 Section 29.6a, these facilities must be certified by the THC Curatorial Facility Certification Program (CFCP). It is through the Code’s requirements and the CFCP that a facility can become a repository capable of properly housing and caring for state-associated held-in-trust collections. CAS earned certification by the THC in 2008 and the majority of our collections are HIT. However, as collections manager, I have made it a priority to manage all of our collections, including non-HIT collections according to the Code’s rules and regulations and the THC certification standards.

During my time as an archaeologist and a collections manager, I have come to appreciate the Code as more than just another binder on my bookshelf. Rather, it is a source of guidance for the principles and ethics that motivate me and my colleagues to protect and preserve the important cultural resources of Texas.

Amy Reid is the Collections Manager at the Center for Archaeological Studies, and director of the PAST Program. She earned her Masters degree from Texas State University, and teaches a course in Archaeological Curation during the Fall semester.