The Association of Iowa Archaeologists (AIA), the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA), and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) developed the Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Iowa to ensure the development of archaeological information that is useful and of consistently good quality. The Guidelines were developed with the input from federal and state agencies, archaeological consulting firms, Native American tribes, the National Park Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other interested parties, including the general public. The document is not regulatory in nature and implies no regulatory authority, written or otherwise.
The Guidelines are intended to provide recommendations and guidance for conducting archaeological investigations throughout the State of Iowa. They are considered the best recommended practices for conducting archaeological investigations in the State. Since archaeological resources are non-renewable (and often not readily apparent to the casual observer), it is important to undertake investigations according to carefully devised research plans that cause minimal harm to the properties while identifying and recovering the most critical and significant data. Each project area and all cultural resources are unique, and the different situations encountered within a project area or at a site could involve different methods of archaeological investigation.
The SHPO recommends that all archaeological investigations in the State of Iowa, including those undertaken as part of project review under the National Historic Preservation Act, follow the Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Iowa. The SHPO uses the Guidelines to facilitate consistent project reviews. However, the Guidelines recognize the need for historic preservation procedures to be flexible enough to meet changing scientific and professional practices. They leave many aspects of field procedures to the discretion of archaeological researchers or federal and state agencies, and acknowledge the fact that it is the responsibility and prerogative of the project archaeologist or agency to determine, implement, and document appropriate investigative methods. Development and implementation of alternative field procedures not discussed in the Guidelines is acceptable and encouraged as long as the methods are fully explained and substantiated.