Anthropology Department

Archaeological Research Program

The ARP gathers in a forest

Our Mission

The Archaeological Research Program (ARP) at California State University, Chico has an educational mission, providing an interdisciplinary approach to archaeological training and problem-oriented research for Anthropology Department graduate and upper-division undergraduate students. In meeting this mission, ARP bids on and executes contracts in the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) field. Contracts are completed using a combination of academic and CRM archaeological techniques. These contracts provide students working for ARP with hands-on experience and the skills necessary for a career in professional archaeology. The Program's professional staff is led by a team of qualified professional archaeologists that meets the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualifications Standards for archaeologists.

Students dig and sort under a tent

Our Services

Organized as a nonprofit arm of the Chico State Enterprises, ARP seeks and executes contracts for professional services in the cultural resources field. The ARP professional services include:

  • Professional archaeological reconnaissance, testing, and mitigation/data recovery on historic and prehistoric sites
  • Historical architecture and documentary research
  • Native American consultation and traditional use evaluations
  • Critical program review and regulatory compliance consultation (NEPA, CEQA)
  • Construction monitoring
  • Sensitivity studies using non-invasive techniques
  • Significance determinations
  • Portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) analyses
  • 3D scanning and printing of artifacts
  • Professional, academic-quality analyses and technical report writing


Archaeological Research Program classroom
Archaeology Lab

The Archaeology Lab is the hub of all activity for the Archaeological Research Program. Artifacts and samples recovered from the field are brought to the lab for cleaning, sorting, cataloging, analyzing, and preparation for long-term storage. About 2,000 square feet of laboratory and workspace is dedicated to these tasks alone. Each semester, university courses are held in the lab, making it a center for contract, research, and academic learning.

Archaeological Research Program curation facility
Curation Facility

The Archaeological Curation Facility provides long-term curation and records management with an ongoing effort to meet or exceed the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines outlined under 36 CFR 79. It houses over 310 collections including artifacts, reports of findings, photographs, and field notes from archaeological investigations located throughout North-central and Northeastern California. The collections are available to CSUC faculty, staff, and students, and to qualified off-campus researchers interested in comparative analysis.

Archaeological Research Program zooarchaeology lab
Zooarchaeology Lab

The Zooarchaeology Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Frank Bayham, houses over 1500 prepared animal skeletons available for comparative analysis and species identification. Researchers at the lab focus on the identification and analysis of animal remains from archaeological sites in order to reconstruct past environments, the economics of animal exploitation, and ancient human-environment relationships. The Lab provides hands-on training to CSUC Anthropology, Biology, and Ecology students as well as those in other departments.

Technical Equipment and Computer Applications

Program activity and grant funding has allowed ARP to acquire top-of-the-line technical equipment. Our technical equipment contains five Trimble handheld GPS units, survey transits, and a Leica total station. Technical laboratory equipment includes a Burker Tracer III-V+ handheld XRF, a NextEngine 3D scanner, and a 3D printer. The ARP’s suite of technical equipment allows senior undergraduate and graduate students to work with specialized equipment and develop computer skills that have proven to be very transferable to careers in archaeology.

Recent Projects

Cooperative Agreement with Bureau of Land Management

In May of 2014, ARP and the Bureau of Land Management Eagle Lake Field Office (ELFO) initiated a five year cooperative agreement. The ARP has long-standing research interests in northeastern California and the Eagle Lake region in particular. In accordance with the goals of this agreement, ARP will conduct cultural resource inventories, record cultural resource sites, prepare inventory reports, participate in cultural resource restoration, develop and recommend cultural resource protection measures, and provide analysis for BLM collections.

Benbow Lake State Recreation Area

The Benbow Lake State Recreation Area Archaeological Project is an ongoing cooperative project between ARP, the North Coast Redwoods division of California State Parks, and the Bear River Band at Rohnerville Rancheria. The project involves conducting archaeological investigations at ethnographic village sites in the vicinity of Benbow Campground along the South Fork of the Eel River in northern California.

Initial field activities for this project were completed in during summer of 2013 and spring of 2014. Fieldwork was completed in the style of a traditional archaeological field school. The goal of the fieldwork was to update the existing site records to current professional standards, assess the extent of the subsurface archaeological deposits within and adjacent to the campground, and determine the location of a historic cabin thought to have been once located at the site. Student participants gained experience with the archaeology of prehistoric California and with current issues in the field of contact archaeology. Additionally, techniques in archaeological survey, site recording and boundary delineation, and archaeological test excavation were taught.

Two students analyze images at a dig site

A student sifts through sand as another digs in a hole

A large area is marked off for excavation
Students take a break from working

Sierra Valley

During the summer of 2012, ARP led a volunteer archaeological project at a prehistoric site in Sierra Valley, California. The project consisted of archaeological site documentation, mapping, and test excavations to evaluate the subsurface integrity of the site. The purpose of these tasks was to assess impacts to the site from road construction and livestock use. The material recovered from the site is currently being studied at CSUC, which will conclude with completion of a Master's thesis on the site.

The class rests under a tree's shade at Sierra Mountain

sierra mountain

Artifact 2, an arrowhead

Artifact 1, a stone wheel

An excavation pit at sierra mountain

For more information, contact:

Dr. Matthew O'Brien, PhD