MAS Guidelines for Research and Code of Ethics
– Revised 9-10-05--2

(To be sent of all new members without the signature page purely for informational purposes; Chapters shall require signature for participation in excavation activities but may not so stipulate as a requirement for Chapter membership.)


MAS encourages responsible surface collection and excavation, in order to preserve our cultural heritage.  The application of standards to work undertaken by MAS members and chapters is intended to increase the quality, accountability, and accessibility of work conducted by members and chapters, and to better increase communication between chapters and the Board of Trustees. The guidelines and procedures for archaeological research should follow (as much as possible) those outlined in the Office of the MA State Archaeologist’s permitting regulations, under M.G.L. Chapter 9, Sections 26-27C (950 CMR 70). 

Surface Collection:

The Board of Trustees recognizes that many MAS members engage in surface collecting activities across the state.  Surface collection is a form of archaeological research.  It is also recognized that most of the collections in the Robbins Museum of Archaeology are the gifts to the Society from loyal and generous members of the Society who were/are collectors.   Collecting was a standard means through which to gain knowledge about native peoples through much of the 20th century.  Because of the rapid 20th century expansion of population and the threat of destruction of open space or former farm land throughout the country, federal laws and regulations were enacted and procedures established on how investigations of Pre-Contact and Historic period remains should be carried out on endangered lands. 

Society members conducting such activities are encouraged to provide basic information on their findings to the MAS.  This information should include a description and map of the collecting area, a listing of artifacts and a description of environmental conditions and land use.  Museum staff will be available to identify and inventory any collections brought into the Robbins Museum, and to make the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) aware of these collections.  A copy of the inventory will be provided to the collector.

When undertaking surface collecting activities, members should act in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations governing access to public and private lands and the removal of specimens therefrom.


A Project Review Committee (PRC) shall be established that provides technical oversight of archaeological research conducted by chapters/members (under the auspices of the MAS) across the state.  The PRC shall consist of one (1) professional archaeologist, and one (1) experienced avocational archaeologist (both of whom shall be members in good standing).  The PRC members shall be selected by the Board of Trustees and each shall serve a 2-year term.  The President shall serve as the 3rd member of the PRC.

Prior to the beginning of a project, any individual, group or chapter conducting archaeological research under the auspices of the MAS is encouraged to submit a proposal to the PRC through the Society President, providing a research design (which specifies the objectives of the project and describes previous relevant research), a suitable methodological and curation plan, a personnel chart (including the qualifications of the team leader) and a schedule. As part of the proposal, the team members should certify that they will uphold the standards and goals of the Society.  The President will distribute the proposal to the other PRC members for review and comment.  The President will provide the PRC’s review comments to the project director within one (1) month of receipt of the proposal.  An expedited review may be provided under emergency conditions. 

Reasons for the rejection of a proposal shall be based upon a failure to comply with the guidelines set forth in this document, or a history of failure to comply.  The project proponent may resubmit an amended proposal, or may appeal a negative decision to the Board of Trustees within one (1) month of receipt of the decision.  The Board will then at its discretion conduct a hearing and issue a final determination.

Research Qualifications:

The research team should have the necessary knowledge, experience and expertise to meet the demands of an archaeological investigation. Towards this end, at least one member of the research team conducting archaeological fieldwork under the auspices of MAS should have a demonstrable understanding of archaeology, anthropology or a related field with at least 16 months of field, laboratory and research experience in Archaeology, including at least 4 months of field and laboratory experience in North American Archaeology, at least 6 months of field and laboratory experience in Northeast U.S. archaeology and at least 6 months of experience in a supervisory role.  Not all members of the team, however, need to meet these qualifications.

The team should know and comply with all federal, state and local laws, ordinances and regulations that pertain to research activities, including the acquisition of all necessary governmental permits and permissions from landowners, and should show proof of compliance/permission to the PRC.

Prior to fieldwork, the individual/chapter/group should develop a research program that includes a discussion of the objectives of the project and all relevant cultural and environmental contextual information, as well as a suitable work plan for implementing the directives of the research program.

Data collection methods and techniques may vary depending on the research value of the site.  Shovel test units placed systematically across the site may be used to define site boundaries and to identify artifact/feature concentrations.  Larger units (1 x 1, 1 x 2, 2 x 2 meter units, etc.) may be excavated within artifact and feature concentration areas to define activity areas, site formation processes, construction sequences, etc.  In most cases, units should be excavated by hand, in 5 or 10 cm levels within natural stratigraphy.  Soils should  be screened through 1/4-inch mesh or smaller, and cultural materials and soil samples should be bagged and labeled with provenience information.  Soil profiles and feature plans should be drawn, and photographs should be taken of the site areas and cultural features.  Vertical and horizontal spatial relationships among artifacts and cultural and environmental features should be accurately recorded.  At the end of the project, all excavation units should be backfilled to match pre-excavation contours.

Recovered material should be processed (washed or cleaned, measured and catalogued) and identified. As part of the investigation, specialized analyses may be employed to address specific research problems.  Analyses frequently performed during an investigation include soil analyses and geomorphological studies; analyses of lithic and ceramic technology; identification and analyses of floral and faunal materials (extracted during the flotation of soil samples); and the processing and analyses of charcoal samples for dating purposes.  The Society and the research team may share the costs of chronological dating, if appropriate.  Statistical analyses may also be conducted to quantify the frequencies and distributions of materials. 

Materials and records should be stored and curated at a suitable facility approved of and accepted by the PRC.  All records should be intelligible and accessible to other qualified archaeologists.

A technical report should be provided by the project director to the PRC through the Society President for review and comment that includes, but is not limited to, descriptions and justifications of all research directives, sampling methodologies, and analytical techniques employed during the investigation; descriptions of the results of the background research, field testing, and analyses; interpretations of these results; and conclusions about the collected data in the context of the research framework.  The report graphics should include, at a minimum, relevant topographic and historic maps; site maps showing test unit locations and landscape features; representative soil profiles; profiles and plans of all significant subsurface features; photographs or illustrations of diagnostic artifacts; appropriate statistical charts, graphs, and tables; and artifact and feature distribution maps.  The report should also include a bibliography and a catalogue of all recovered materials and their proveniences.  Reports should be submitted within 5 years of completion of fieldwork, unless an extension is granted by the PRC.  Interim progress reports should be submitted on a yearly basis for multi-year projects, culminating in a final technical report subject to review by the PRC.  The Society and the research team may share the costs of report reproduction.

All final technical reports shall be kept on file in the MAS Library, and availed to colleagues upon request, unless the dissemination of such information may lead to vandalism or improper investigation of an archaeological site.  The Society President shall provide copies of the final reports to the MHC.


Archaeology is a profession, and the privilege of participating in the science requires competence and responsibility. Consequently,

A. The M.A.S. member should:

1. Recognize a commitment to the public to represent archaeology and its research results to the public in a responsible manner;

2. Actively support conservation of archaeological resources;

3. Keep responsibly well-informed and knowledgeable about developments in  method and theory in the field, and take steps to increase his/her knowledge of the subject and its procedures;

4. Avoid and discourage exaggerated, misleading, or unwarranted statements about archaeological matters that might induce others to engage in unethical or illegal activity;

5. Support and comply with the terms of the UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

6.  Be sensitive to, and respect the legitimate concerns of, groups whose culture histories are the subjects of the archaeological investigations.

B. The M.A.S. member should not:

1. Take part in any illegal or unethical conduct involving archaeological matters;

2. Engage in any conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation  about archaeological matters that may harm the reputation of the Society or may have negative legal implications for the Society;


3. Undertake research that affects the archaeological resource base beyond his/her capabilities;

4. Undertake research unless reasonably prompt, appropriate documentation can be accomplished;

5. Intentionally seek out human skeletal remains to excavate.

6.  Make public precise site locations whenever such publication might lead to   vandalism or unauthorized investigation of sites.

7. Willingly engage in the buying and selling of artifacts for profit from known archaeological contexts.

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