Dig before you dig: archaeological assessment can alleviate headaches for developers.

AuthorKelly, Lindsay
PositionNEWS - Disease/Disorder overview

Many large-scale development projects in the Province of Ontario require an archaeological assessment prior to any major work being done.

But, as archaeologist Luke Dalla Bona notes, if all parties work together, the assessment shouldn't be seen as a threat to development.

Regulated by the provincial government, the archaeological assessment process is laid out in clear, concise terms that make it easy to navigate--and the sooner the better.

"Those people who successfully get through the archaeological process are the ones who started early in their development process and are willing to engage in it honestly," Dalla Bona said. "They're the ones that sail through the process quite easily."

Dalla Bona is a principal at Woodland Heritage, an archaeological consulting firm he and his partner, Dr. John Pollock, formed in 1999.

With offices in Sault Ste. Marie and New Liskeard, Woodland Heritage undertakes archaeological consultation on developments ranging from mines to hydroelectric dams to cottage lots to renewable energy projects.

Ninety per cent of their commissions take place in Northern Ontario; their work has taken them from the Manitoba border to the shores of Lake Erie and up to Hudson Bay.

According to the province, archaeological assessments are triggered by housing subdivisions and other land development projects; public development projects; quarrying, forest harvesting, pipeline installations and other land use activities; and when development is proposed for provincially owned lands.

Archaeologists follow a four-stage assessment protocol, which proceeds as new evidence of cultural heritage emerges at a site.

In the initial phase, the land is evaluated and any findings are submitted to the province. If there is potential for it to be an archaeological site, the process moves to Stage 2.

At this stage, archaeologists undertake a field assessment to try to verify what was found in the report.

"That involves digging the test pits and putting the soil through a screen, and if you find something, then you have verified the existence of a site," Dalla Bona said.

In Northern Ontario, cultural heritage artifacts could include arrowheads, spear points, ceramic pottery, or shards of stone dating as far back 11,000 years to pre-contact Indigenous history, he noted. But it could also include sites associated with the construction of the railroads, fur trade posts, POW camps, or early logging camps.

"These are wonderful little time capsules of...

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