Marine (Underwater) Archaeological Assessments

SJAI provides marine archaeological services in the Province, having conducted harbourfront improvement projects (City of Thunder Bay), erosion control projects (Toronto shoreline from Mississauga to Scarborough for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), marina development projects, etc.   SJAI has over 40 years of experience in Great Lakes archaeology, and our staff and associates provide quality assessments and reports.

Underwater/marine archaeological assessments are becoming more frequently required prior to development. Underwater pipelines, drinking water systems, waste water management, green energy, marina and port development, “made land” projects, erosion control are just some of the projects that now require a marine archaeological assessment.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport issues a project licence, rather than a blanket licence, for marine archaeological work. There are no defined “stages” as per the land archaeology, but essentially, the same structure can be applied using different terminology.

Background Research

Background research of the study area general consist of: a study of archival resources; review of past archaeological work of in the area; review of existing drawings and maps; review of existing site records; review of existing historic background compiled by local heritage groups or other agencies; and, other avenues that will assist in defining the archaeological potential of the area and the probability of encountering marine related cultural resources.

In-Water Archaeological Survey

Scarlett Janusas Archaeology Inc. has been conducting marine archaeology on the Great Lakes and in Ontario water bodies for over 30 years. Bathymetry can be part of the process if no bathymetry has been gathered previously. The in-water archaeological component will include side scan sonar, magnetometer, and sub bottom profiling, in so far as bottom type allows for effective use of these technologies. In the event that any of these studies indicate a possible cultural resource, the targets will be ground truthed by deploying a remote operated vehicle equipped with both still photo and video capabilities. No divers will enter the water during this initial archaeological investigation. Snorkelers may be used to visually assess the near shore/shallow areas.

Recording/Mapping of Underwater Archaeological Resources

Depending on the depth and condition of the archaeological resource, there are a number of different methodologies that can be used to record underwater archaeological resources. These include: snorkelers in shallow water, scuba divers or hard divers in deeper waters, or 2D/3D mapping using geotechnical equipment. The objective of this stage is to accurately map all of the details of the underwater archaeological resource without excavation.

Excavation/Avoidance Mitigation Strategies

Avoidance is always the preferred alternative in a protection strategy. If the development cannot avoid the archaeological resource, alternative strategies might include: relocation of the resource or excavation of the resource. Excavation of any underwater archaeological resource will also include a conservation component, as once an object is removed from water, it begins to deteriorate.