Archaeological Overview and Assessment of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Salem, Massachusetts


The Salem Maritime National Historical Site was created in 1937 to commemorate the maritime history of the early American nation. Salem played a primary role in the American international maritime trade from the colonial period to the mid nineteenth century, and it is this legacy that the park seeks to interpret and preserve. The site today encompasses nearly nine acres bordering on the Salem waterfront that contain a variety of historic structures, including seventeenth- through nineteenth-century domestic dwellings, wharves and warehouses, as well as the federal Custom House and associated Public Stores, all associated with the town's contribution a burgeoning world economy and growing nation.

This Archaeological Overview and Assessment is part of a system-wide inventory of archaeological assets on public lands. As such, the goal of this work was to identify all known and potential subsurface cultural remains and to make recommendations for their long-term preservation and management. Intensive documentary research succeeded in identifying a total of 68 known and potential archaeological sites within the park. Two of these are associated with Native American occupation and consist of a shell deposit and a lithic scatter. Archaeological assets associated with the historic period include a wide array of structures that were constructed and demolished over the course of the 17th through 20th centuries. These subsurface assets compliment those existing resources due to a wide range of domestic, commercial, institutional, civic, and municipal activities with which they were associated.

Archaeological investigations within the park have focused on identifying aspects of seventeenth century domestic life at the Narbonne House and on identifying evidence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maritime activities and construction details in the context of Derby and Central Wharves during undertakings associated with installation of utilities and wharf repair and maintenance. These investigations have revealed that some portions of the park maintain a high level of integrity and preservation, while in many other areas resource conditions are unknown.

This report is published in two volumes. The first includes environmental and historical background information and summarizes previous archaeological research. It summarizes documented disturbances of the archaeological record in the park unit and the known and potential archaeological resources. Volume I also includes a section on Recommendations for management of archaeological resources in the area. Volume II contains Appendices B, C, and D a series of recording forms used by the NPS and the Massachusetts Historical Commission as part of their archaeological inventory files.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Overview and Assessment of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Salem, Massachusetts. J. N. Leith Smith, Jack Gary, Gregory Dubell, George Schwartz, Starla Lane. Cultural Resource Management Study ,16. University of Massachusetts, Boston: Center for Cultural and Environmental History. 2005 ( tDAR id: 372576) ; doi:10.6067/XCV84J0GQM

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1670 to 1973

Spatial Coverage

min long: -70.915; min lat: 42.516 ; max long: -70.882; max lat: 42.545 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Submitted To(s): National Park Service Northeast Region Archeology Program

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
2005-Salem-NHS-Archaeol-Overview-Volume-I-OCRed.pdf 53.69mb Jan 29, 2016 Jan 29, 2016 12:57:24 PM Public
Volume I; public domain document
2005-Salem-NHS-Archaeol-Overview-Volume-II-OCRed.pdf 17.41mb Jan 29, 2016 Jan 29, 2016 12:57:28 PM Public
Volume II copy; public domain document