Alaska Heritage Resources Survey

The Alaska Heritage Resources Survey (AHRS) is a restricted inventory of all reported prehistoric, archaeological and historic sites within the State of Alaska and is maintained by the Office of History and Archaeology. This inventory of cultural resources includes objects, structures, buildings, sites, districts, and travel ways, with a general provision that they are over 50 years old. To date over 38,000 sites have been reported within Alaska. However, cultural resource inventory of Alaska is incomplete and ongoing. When a site is not listed on the AHRS resource managers and planning personnel are not able to consider potential impacts cause by future development.

The fundamental use of the AHRS is to protect cultural resource sites from unwanted destruction. Various state and federal agencies and private companies use the inventory when planning or reviewing development projects. With knowledge of reported cultural remains prior to construction, efforts can be made to avoid project delays and prevent unnecessary destruction of these non-renewable resources. Listing on the AHRS does not, in and of itself, provide protection for sites. But does allow for knowledgeable decisions to be made concerning the future of these sites.

The AHRS has evolved from a map based system that used USGS topographic maps at 1:250,000 and 1:63,360 (1" = 1 mile) scales. This is still the basis for how numbers are assigned. Each site is given an individual designation consisting of a trigraph for the USGS quadrangle in which it is located and a unique sequential number within that quadrangle, i.e., SIT-010 is the AHRS number for the tenth site recorded within the Sitka quadrangle.

For each individual site, the AHRS contains a site record containing such information as the site name, a description of the physical remains, data on the site's location (using the NAD83 datum) and, in some cases, pdf documents, as well as a variety of additional information relevant to management and research needs.

Who has access to the AHRS?

The AHRS is closed to the general public under state and federal laws. Restricted or confidential site information is withheld from public records disclosure under state law (AS 40.25.110) and under the federal Freedom of Information Act (PL 89-554). The restriction of site inventory information is allowed by AS 40.25.120(a)(4), Alaska State Parks Policy and Procedure No. 50200, the National Historic Preservation Act (PL 89-665, 16 U.S.C. 470), and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (PL 96-95).

Qualified users are those people who have a qualifying need for the information and are qualified to interpret the data as needed. Users are representatives of federal, state, or local governments on official business; researchers engaged in scientific research; individuals or representatives of organizations conducting cultural resource surveys aimed at protection of such information or sites; or such individuals determined by the Chief of the office as having a legitimate need for access.

For more information on how to obtain access, please see AHRS Policies and Guidelines.

Does having an AHRS number imply eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places?

No, the AHRS inventory is a statewide inventory of all reported sites. In order to understand and interpret people's use of the landscape, a baseline inventory of all site resources needs to exist. The AHRS inventory is the means of documenting the variety of cultural resources in specific areas to enable interpretation and preservation goals of the state. Eligibility is not a consideration when assigning AHRS numbers.

What types of cultural resources get an AHRS number?

The AHRS inventory includes: objects; structures; buildings; archaeology or historic sites; some paleontological sites; districts; travel ways; traditional cultural properties; and places of cultural importance. "Sites" must be mappable and should have physical remains, although physical remains are no longer a requirement. The general provisions below should help in determining if a site needs an AHRS number.

  • All sites (other than CMTs) that indicate historic or prehistoric use or occupation need a site number regardless of the size, function, possible eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic places, or research potential.

  • Individual Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs) do not need a site number, only large groves and only with AHRS manager approval.

  • Generally sites should be at least 45-50 years of age to be on the inventory. Exceptions can be made for younger sites. Please contact the AHRS coordinator with questions.

  • Graves (isolated and clustered, marked and unmarked) need a site number, even if they are located adjacent to or in the vicinity of a church. In support of AS 11.46.482 (a)(3) , all graves, no matter how recent, need an AHRS number for management purposes.

  • Isolated artifacts/finds need a site number, even if the artifact is collected.

  • Features located less than 50 meters apart generally do not need individual site numbers (unless they are from a different occupation period).

  • Different (period) occupations that are "co-located" generally need two site numbers, a good example is a historic cabin and associated remains co-located with a prehistoric site.

  • Individual resources are given numbers based on the need to track and differentiate resources. The location and nature of cultural resources are tracked by reference to the AHRS number(s). For example:

  • Example AHRS Numbers

    - a building would get an AHRS number and may include two minor outbuildings (shed and garage),

    - a site would get an AHRS number as the site is the resource, not the individual features within the site, or

    - a district would get an AHRS number as it is an aggregation of resources that can each be numbered separately.