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Society for California Archaeology

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The development of these professional qualifications (PQs) results from the Standards and Guidelines White Paper adopted by the California State Historical Resources Commission on 30 July 2010.

The White Paper lays out several shortcomings of the practice of professional archaeology in California and provides specific remedies, including the establishment of professional qualifications. These standards are intended to be consistent with but not substitute the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards for Archaeology.


The purpose of these PQs is to improve the quality and public benefit of archaeology by setting forth the education and experience required for individuals to practice professional archaeology as a Principal Investigator (PI) in California. Particular emphasis is placed on the PI’s relationship and obligations to California Indian tribes, tribal communities, and other descendant communities (“Descendant Communities”), whose culturally affiliated places, resources, and material remains are under study.


The PQs define minimum qualifications for an individual to serve as PI for professional archaeological studies conducted in California. These include investigations carried out to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), SB 18, and local government ordinances and policies (including those of municipalities, counties, and special assessment districts in California).

The PI plans, conducts, provides reports and assessments, and has overall responsibility for an archaeological investigation, and ensures that every aspect of the work meets current regulatory compliance requirements and professional technical and ethical standards.

The PI makes a good faith effort to include Descendant Communities in all aspects of their research, assessment, findings, and recommendations and to integrate their practices and policies concerning the archaeological data at issue, including the confidentiality of such data.

A PI is appropriately qualified—as evidenced by training, education, and experience, and possesses demonstrable competence in archaeological theory and methods, and in collecting, handling, analyzing, evaluating, and reporting archaeological data—in relation to the type and scope of the work proposed, and meets the following minimum qualifications in Education, General Experience, and Sub-disciplinary Experience*.


  1. A graduate degree (e.g., M.A., M.S., or Ph.D.) in archaeology, anthropology, or closely related field with a specialization in archaeology from an accredited institution OR
  2. Equivalency to a graduate degree consisting of
    1. A Bachelor’s degree (e.g., A.B., B.A., B.S.) in archaeology, anthropology, or closely related field from an accredited institution AND
    2. Demonstrated ability to carry archaeological research to completion, as evidenced by individual authorship of a thesis, dissertation, or other comparable major study focusing on a California archaeological site(s)
    3. Equivalency qualification as a PI is effective until 31 December 2021 after which time the provision is null and void.

General Experience

  1. Demonstrated ability to respectfully collaborate, consult, and incorporate the expertise, knowledge, practices, polices, and traditions of Descendant Communities regarding how   their heritage resources and cultural places are to be considered and treated in   accordance with their associated cultural values, AND
  2. Demonstrated ability to plan, equip, staff, organize, and supervise activity of the type and scope proposed, AND
  3. Demonstrated ability to carry research to completion, as evidenced by timely completion of a thesis, report on research, and/or similar document, AND
  4. Demonstrated experience and competency with environmental and cultural resources regulations applicable in California and their integration with applicable local government and tribal polices or practices, AND
  5. At least one year of full-time professional experience or equivalent specialized training at a recognized professional entity in California archaeological research in archaeological administration and management, AND
  6. At least four months of supervised archaeological field and analytical (lab) experience

Sub-disciplinary Experience: Prehistoric Archaeology

At least one year of full-time professional experience at a supervisory level in the study of California prehistoric-era archaeological resources, or if outside the state, in resource types and contexts directly comparable to those of California.

Sub-disciplinary Experience: Historical Archaeology

At least one year of full-time, supervisory level professional experience in the study of California historic-era archaeological resources and historic contexts or, if outside the state, in resource types and contexts directly comparable to those of California.

* Qualifications modified from 43 CRF 7.8(a)(1) as well as County of San Diego’s CEQA Consultant List and Caltrans Section 106 Programmatic Agreement Professional Qualification Standards.


(Revised 8/15/16)

Society for California Archaeology
Business Office
P.O. Box 2582 |  Granite Bay  |  CA 95746

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(530) 342-3537

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