Byways 101

Part 2: Intrinsic Qualities & The Byway Story

Archaeological Intrinsic Quality

FHWA Interim Policy Definition
Archaeological quality involves those characteristics of the scenic byway corridor that are physical evidence of historic or prehistoric human life or activity that are visible and capable of being inventoried and interpreted. The scenic byway corridor’s archaeological interests as identified through ruins, artifacts, structural remains, and other physical evidence have scientific significance that educate the viewer and stir an appreciation for the past. (FHWA Interim Policy, May 18, 1995)

Inventory And Designation Considerations
A precondition for archaeological quality is the presence of physical remains. A road that follows Native American or early European travel routes, for example, would not justify the archaeological quality for designation, whereas intact campsites areas along the route could provide the necessary physical evidence.

For a road to have archaeological quality that is significant enough to merit National Scenic Byway designation, the archaeological resources along the corridor must be both important and accessible.

  • The resources must have scientific significance, and not commonly found throughout a region or in other places across the country.
  • The physical evidence must be visible and capable of being inventoried and interpreted. Visitors must be able to experience and learn about the past through direct contact.

If travelers cannot see the evidence, the byway cannot be designated for its archaeological quality, even if it has great scientific significance.

If the site is visible but extremely fragile and sensitive to disturbance, as is often the case, careful management is necessary to prevent damage to or loss of these resources. Archaeological quality should not be the focus of a byway’s story unless there is an established Federal, State, nonprofit or private organization with a program in place to manage the resources and to provide the facilities and sites that can handle visitors.

Often, archaeological sites will illustrate different intrinsic qualities. For example, archaeological evidence may support byway stories based on historic or cultural intrinsic qualities. Native American, colonial settlement, industrial revolution, early tourism, and agrarian themes are common byway stories that tap archaeological evidence.

Through the archaeology intrinsic quality, communities can creatively promote and responsibly protect their archaeological resources. Always be sure to recognize the fragility of these resources. You may even find it more appropriate to not promote a site given its precarious nature.

Take A Look!
An example from America’s Byways® of a route designated for archaeological intrinsic qualities is the Trail of the Ancients (Colorado, Utah) – National Scenic Byway. Visit for details related to this byway.

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