Land Archaeological Assessments

All archaeologists conducting work in the Province of Ontario must hold a valid archaeological licence issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS). We are governed by the MTCS under the Standards and Guidelines for Consulting Archaeologists in Ontario.
Archaeological assessments can involve up to four steps.


Stage 1 Archaeological Assessment

A review of land use history, current use, geographic variables and historic information which will assist in the determination of archaeological potential (does the property exhibit variables that suggest archaeological sites might be present on the property?). A property inspection is required if any areas of the property are determined to exhibit low archaeological potential. A property inspection does not entail field work, simply a property visit with a walkover. Stages 1 and 2 are often paired together.

Stage 2 Archaeological Assessment

A general survey of the entire property will be conducted to identify all archaeological resources that may be present. There are generally two methods of assessment, sometimes used independently, sometimes in combination. Ploughed fields (ploughed and tilled) will be subject to a pedestrian transect survey (walking) in regular intervals. Areas that cannot be ploughed such as woodlots, old pasture, rocky pasture, etc. will be subject to a test pitting methodology also conducted at regular intervals where a test pit 30 cms in diameter will be excavated into subsoil, or to the level of a feature encountered, and all pit contents screened, also conducted at regular intervals. These intervals are reduced if an archaeological resource is located. If an archaeological resource is located, Stage 3 assessment is recommended.

Stage 3 Archaeological Assessment

Stage 3 is a site specific survey which includes mapping the extent of the site and excavating a number of test units (1 x 1 m square) or test trenches to determine the spatial extent of the site, the cultural affiliation, and to evaluate the sites’ cultural heritage value or interest. Recommendations might include: no further archaeological work is required, or, additional Stage 4 archaeological assessment is required.

Stage 4 Archaeological Assessment

Stage 4 begins with the possibility of long-term protection strategies (avoidance/protection) for the site. If protection is not viable, then excavation of the entire site (or partial depending on boundaries) will be required prior to any ground disturbance.


Archaeological work in Northern Ontario (defined as Manitoulin Island, Muskoka, Haliburton, Nipissing Districts and points north) or on the Canadian Shield) is conducted with exemptions to the Standards and Guidelines for Consulting Archaeologists. These exemptions recognize that Northern Ontario presents obstacles to the standard archaeological assessment.