BOEM Completes Six-Year Submerged Paleocultural Landscapes Project

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) – working with the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council and the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office – recently completed a collaborative, six-year study to help establish a methodology to better locate, identify and understand ancient sites where indigenous people may have been present on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). 

Study results will help BOEM, states, and tribal communities develop data collection protocols and survey guidelines to help avoid or mitigate adverse effects that Atlantic continental shelf energy and marine mineral resource development may cause to these submerged ancient cultural or archaeological sites.

Titled “Developing Protocols for Reconstructing Submerged Paleocultural Landscapes and Identifying Ancient Native American Archaeological Sites in Submerged Environments,” the BOEM-funded study developed best practices to improve the effectiveness of tribal engagement and geoarchaeological site characterization associated with the permitting process for offshore energy development on the OCS.

BOEM relies on the best available science to inform its decisions on offshore energy and marine mineral development. The absence of a scientifically proven, standardized best practices methodology for identifying submerged landscapes – and the cultural or archaeological resources they may contain – was a driving factor in the study’s creation.

The bureau hopes that this project can serve as an example of how collaborative projects can foster meaningful interaction between different parties and develop best practices to address cultural, scientific and archaeological aspects of offshore energy development projects.

Six study reports are available for review on the Environmental Studies Program Information System (ESPIS). The video explaining the project can be viewed from Submerged Paleocultural Landscapes Project page on