Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

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Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

Postby Anonymous_Coward » May 27, 2009 1:37 pm

I am about to begin a cave restoration project of a 300 foot-long passage. The passage was used for cave tours in the 1920's and contains much rotting wood and rusty metal that was formerly part of the tour trail. In some cases the metal grating used for traction has been calcified into flowstone. We know of some historic newspaper, and expect to find more interesting artifacts as the project progresses.

All of this must be removed, but historic preservation rules dictate that all material be catalogued as to location and context. Therefore, an accurate survey and inventory is in order.

Has anyone been involved in a project like this before? I would be interested to know what methodology you used. I have decided to resurvey the passage with survey points no more than 10 feet apart. This will allow me to locate each historic object to a nearby station. Would you suggest surveying a shot to each object, or laying out a grid such as used in an archaeological dig? The passage is nowhere more than 20 ft. wide.

Any input would be appreciated.

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Re: Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

Postby wendy » May 27, 2009 2:07 pm

I know that the CRF has done work in the Mammoth area removing old wood etc. and they probably came across some artifacts, but I am not sure. Get in touch with Jim Borden ( . Maybe he can help.
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Re: Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

Postby NZcaver » May 27, 2009 3:23 pm


I've helped with a number of cave surveys which were primarily archaeology-driven. We surveyed the caves (lava tubes) more-or-less as usual, but often placed stations more frequently where we had a high density of artifacts. Each item of interest would be identified, photographed with a scale, and plotted on the map. Usually we'd run a splay shot to each significant site/item from the nearest station. We never laid out grids as far as I'm aware.

Hope this helps. Sounds like a fun project! :grin:
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Re: Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

Postby chac » May 28, 2009 10:12 pm


How accurate does your survey of artifacts need to be? There is the Trilateration method:

It's equivalent to the way GPS devices operate to derive a position/coordinates. Should you need general positions of the artifacts, a formal cave survey would work. If you need exact documentation, then Trilateration is an alternative. It all depends on your needs for accuracy/precision to locate the objects. Trilateration is a lengthy process where you would construct a grid to work from (to determine the actual positions of the artifacts within a cm or two).

This survey method was used in an underwater cave in Yucatan last year to document exact positions of a large collection of human remains on the floor of a cave. Apparently it worked well within the selected field of bone remains. I was not involved this survey, but I'd be glad to put you in contact with the surveyor.

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Re: Restoration of passage containg historic artifacts

Postby Stan Allison » Jun 5, 2009 1:38 pm

Hi Andy,

We have done a similar project here at Carlsbad Cavern where we removed old wooden magnesium flare handles that date back to the early 1900's from Lower Cave. The flare handles were rotting in the high humidity environment which wasn't good for the cultural items (flare handles) or the natural resources (cave). We did the necessary compliance to document the location of the flare handles and photograph them so that we could remove them to be curated in the Park Museum. We documented the location of each historic item by surveying from the nearest survey station. Sometimes this took a couple of shots, but this method seemed to work well. I don't know your exact situation, but it seems to me that surveying the passage with survey points ten feet apart would take more time than surveying each artifact and would result in a less precise location than surveying each artifact. We also have been surveying in historical items as we perform elevator blast rubble removal from the Big Room. Send me an email if you want more details on the projects where we have been documenting the location of cultural artifacts with the cave survey.

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