Lost Lake Log Cabin, listed on the Thuston County Historic Register

Photo: Lost Lake Log Cabin, listed on the Thurston County Historic Register in 2015. See more here.

Need a Cultural Resource Assessment for your Thurston County Project?

Archaeological and Cultural Resources Assessments for Thurston County Permit Reviews

When projects are permitted by the Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department, they undergo a review which could find that a project has the potential to impact cultural sites. An archaeological survey (also called a cultural resources assessment) may be requested so that impacts to heritage sites can be assessed. An Inadvertent Discovery Plan and/or archaeological monitoring may also be requested by project reviewers for a high-probability project area. Antiquity understands these are unexpected project needs, and can assist you with keeping your project review on-schedule.

How can Antiquity help me?

Antiquity Consulting is located ​in Thurston County, which means Antiquity is situated to serve you efficiently with high-quality historical and archaeological research. Throughout her career, qualified archaeologist Beth Mathews has worked with local regulatory agencies, tribes, and other local experts for cultural resource assessments and archaeological and historical research. Since Beth calls the South Puget Sound home, she is dedicated to studying local history and is uniquely situated to study impacts to Thurston County properties.

What are cultural resources?

Cultural resources are sites that may be listed on local, state, or national preservation registers. The Thurston County Historic Register (TCHR) is a list of places important to the history of Thurston County, considered worthy of recognition and preservation (Thurston County 2017). The TCHR  consists of properties of historical, architectural, or archaeological importance, including birthplaces, graves, and cemeteries. To be listed on the TCHR a property must typically be 50 years old, or of exceptional importance.

The Washington Heritage Register (WHR), which is maintained by the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), is a list of historically significant districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are considered significant in local or state history (WSDAHP 2018A). To qualify for listing on the WHR a heritage resource must be at least 50 years old, or should have documented exceptional significance if less than 50 years old. The resource should have documented historical significance at the local, state, or federal level, and should maintain a high to medium level of integrity of important character defining features.


To be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a historic property is defined as “a district, site, building, structure or object significant in American history, architecture, engineering, archeology or culture at the national, state, or local level.” These properties are typically evaluated in terms of historic significance, integrity, and the general stipulation that the property be 50 years old or older.

Why does my project area need to be surveyed by an archaeologist?

The preservation of historical and archaeological sites is among the goals of the Washington State Growth Management Act  (Revised Code of Washington 36.70A), which is designed to reduce or mitigate the negative effects of uncoordinated/unplanned population growth. The Thurston County Comprehensive Plan was adopted under the authority of the Washington State Growth Management Act, and requires the county to identify and evaluate archaeological and historic resources for their significance and preservation. Under the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan, the county should encourage land uses and development proposals that retain or enhance archaeological and historic cultural resources and discourage the destruction or incompatible alteration of these resources (10.II.1.8).

Archaeological and historic properties may be considered eligible for the Thurston County Historic Inventory, the Thurston County Historic Register, the Washington Heritage Register, and the National Register of Historic Places. As a Certified Local Government, the Thurston County Historic Commission administers the Thurston County Historic Preservation program and is responsible for maintaining a historic preservation commission, surveying historic properties, enforcing state or local preservation laws, reviewing National Register of Historic Places nominations, and providing for public participation in historic preservation activities (WSDAHP 2018B).

Thurston County and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation share the role of lead agency with the technical expertise to consider the effects of a proposed action on cultural resources. The Thurston County Comprehensive Plan stipulates that the Squaxin Island Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Nation, and the Nisqually Indian Tribe should “be contacted to comment on proposed land use or other actions or projects which could involve traditional areas or archaeological resources (10.I.D.1)” because of their cultural expertise.

Washington State protects its heritage resources under various laws. The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), requires that all major actions sponsored, funded, permitted, or approved by State and/or local agencies provide consideration of the impacts of the planned action on the environment, which includes properties of historical, archaeological, scientific, or cultural importance (Washington Administrative Code 197-11-960). In Washington State it is illegal to knowingly disturb archaeological sites or certain archaeological materials on state and private lands. Laws protecting these resources include the Archaeological Sites and Resources Law (RCW 27.53), Indian Graves and Records Law (RCW 27.44), Human Remains Law (RCW 68.50), and Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries and Historic Graves Law (RCW 68.60).

What is a cultural resources assessment?

Per the Washington State Standards for Cultural Resources Reporting (WSDAHP 2018C), a cultural resource assessment for archaeological resources must be completed by Secretary of the Interior-qualified Archaeologist. A cultural resources assessment is a process designed to identify cultural resources, determine their eligibility for heritage registers, and assess whether a project impacts the register eligibility of the cultural resources.

What is an Inadvertent/Unanticipated Discovery Plan?

A project may need monitoring for cultural resources depending on site factors like nearby presence of archaeological or historical sites, depth of excavation, and degree of integrity of soils. A good IDP/UDP will provide project management with a clear plan for what to do and who to contact in the event that your project encounters archaeological or human skeletal materials. A clear concise discovery plan will safeguard your project from unnecessary headaches and delays.

What are the chances my property contains significant cultural resources?

Nearly 67,000 heritage sites have been recorded in Washington State (WSDAHP 2018D). These sites include archaeological sites, historic properties, and cemeteries (you can view a map of archaeological sites per county here)So how likely is it that your property contains a heritage site? I've combed through the records, and there's about a 2% chance of encountering a heritage site on an acre of project land (see the table below). Although your chances of encountering a site appear slightly higher in Thurston (5%) and Pierce (7.5%) counties relative to other places, these numbers are skewed because more area has been surveyed in these counties due to higher rates of development (resulting in more recorded sites).









Thurston County

2017 Historic Register FAQs. http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/historic/historic-faq.html. Accessed 24 January 2018.

Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (WSDAHP)

2018A Washington Heritage Register. https://dahp.wa.gov/historic-registers/washington-heritage-register. Accessed 24 January 2018.


2018B Certified Local Government Program. https://dahp.wa.gov/local-preservation/certified-local-government-program. Accessed 24 January 2018.


2018C Washington State Standards for Cultural Resources Reporting. https://dahp.wa.gov/sites/default/files/CR%20Update%20January%202018.pdf. Accessed 28 January 2018.

2018D Washington Information System for Architectural and Archaeological Records Data. https://secureaccess.wa.gov/dahp/wisaardp3. Accessed 3 May 2018.

Recommended citation for this webpage:

Mathews, Bethany K.

2018 Archaeological and Cultural Resources Assessments for Thurston County Permit Reviewshttps://www.antiquityconsulting.com/thurstoncountyculturalresources

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