Practice of Archaeological Resource Management

Responsible CRM decision-making in archaeological resource management practice depends on four elements as outlined in the CRM Policy:

  1. Inventory of resources (2.1);
  2. Evaluation of resources to determine cultural resources and their historic value (2.2);
  3. Consideration of historic value in actions affecting cultural resources (2.3); and
  4.  Monitoring and review of ongoing activities (2.4).

Given the variable, elusive, and sometimes endangered nature of the archaeological resources in areas under Parks Canada’s administration, it will be important for Field Units to be proactive in seeking opportunities to inventory, evaluate and monitor these resources.


The CRM Policy states: “Parks Canada will develop and maintain inventories of all the resources it administers for the purpose of determining which resources should be identified as cultural resources”17. Inventories are essential for evaluating and managing all archaeological sites and their associated collections. However, given Parks Canada’s large land base and the difficulty of observing archaeological resources below ground and underwater, resource inventories will rarely be definitive. The inventories will be updated as necessary, and will provide information to assist decision-making.

Archaeological resource inventories contain data on the location and nature of archaeological resources. They are tools that can help managers when making decisions concerning development, recapitalization or other projects. Inventories can be used to help predict the probability of discovering other resources in the area. However, land managers should be mindful that archaeological resources may also be discovered in areas where the potential for finding resources is deemed low. Also, managers should consider that there may be a high potential for finding resources in areas of the site or park where archaeological inventories are not complete, not available or do not exist. Inventories have limitations; therefore archaeologists should always be consulted to assess the impact of a project or an activity likely to result in the disturbance of an archaeological resource.

Building and Using the Inventory

Investigative techniques, such as documentary and material culture research, traditional knowledge, predictive modelling, remote sensing, field survey, shovel test-pits and mapping help archaeologists determine the type, size, date, cultural association, quantity, distribution, and research and/or presentation potential of archaeological resources. Synthesis of data and interpretation by archaeologists can provide managers with valuable information on the cultural history, density and distribution of the resources, and the requirement for additional research. In areas with high site potential, or when resources are under threat, more intensive investigation, including fieldwork, must precede any scheduled intervention activity.

Archaeologists working on Parks Canada lands and lands underwater must use the Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys in order to respect a standardized and systematic approach to record sites and resources.   They must also refer to the Management Directive 2.1.23 Collections Management System: Archaeological Services. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada are also a source of reference.

Archaeological resource information is integral to planning, management, research, and interpretation. The following items should be considered when managing archaeological resources:

  • a list of all known archaeological resources and their location(s);
  • archaeological records and databases that are maintained and updated according to Parks Canada’s geographical and informatics standards;
  • an evaluation of the significance of each archaeological resource;
  • a description of the assessment methodology and the evaluation of its accuracy and reliability;
  • an indication of the nature, extent and cost of work needed to provide more accurate assessments if required;
  • an assessment of resource condition and threats; and
  • an identification of the need for protection, monitoring or mitigation for each resource.

The evaluation of archaeological resources is directly linked to their historic value and considers both the whole resource and its components. Parks Canada evaluates archaeological resources to determine whether they have historic value and significance, and to distinguish between Level I and Level II resources.  Historic value helps focus Parks Canada’s efforts for protection, presentation and appropriate use18. The term “historic” is used in its broadest meaning to define the value of archaeological resources. It does not refer to a specific time period.

Historic value defines the particular qualities and features that make up the historic character of an archaeological resource19. The historic value of an archaeological resource is considered in management decisions (e.g. management plans, environmental assessments) affecting the resource.

  • Level I

    A Level I archaeological resource is one of national historic significance and is the highest level assigned to an archaeological resource20.  Level I archaeologicalresources include but are not limited to:

  • a place that has been specifically designated by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (i.e., National Historic Sites of Canada);
  • the in situ archaeological resources on a national historic site that are directly related to the commemorative intent of the ministerial designation; and
  • archaeological collections (e.g. moveable cultural resources) that have a direct relationship with the commemorative intent of the ministerial designation and to the site.
  • Level II

    Archaeological resources that are not of national historic significance may have historic value and therefore may be assigned a Level II value21. Their historic value is determined by criteria that are used in evaluating the resource’s importance, such as aesthetic and environmental qualities, factors of regional or local association, and provincial, territorial or municipal designations22.  However, before assessment and evaluation, all archaeological resources are treated as Level II resources in all areas administered by Parks Canada and on sites of national historic significance. Specifically, Level II resources and their values are described in the national historic site’s CIS. Appendix 3 contains a list of value-derived indicators that can assist managers with evaluating Level II archaeological resources.

  • Other

    Resources that do not meet criteria established for Levels I and II (i.e. resources that have values other than historic value as identified in the CRM Policy) will be managed under other appropriate processes and policies. The types of resources listed below require a particularly vigilant approach.

  • Funerary Objects, Grave Markers, Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

    Special ethical consideration must be given to protecting and managing all funerary objects, grave markers, cemeteries and burial grounds. Parks Canada respects their inherent spiritual significance and heritage value23.

    Cemeteries, burial grounds, funerary objects and grave markers are considered heritage resources because they possess an intrinsic heritage value, are evidence of human activity, and have spiritual meaning. As heritageresources, they can also under specific circumstances be deemed Level I or Level II cultural resources depending on the criteria outlined in the previous sections.

    In order to respect their spiritual significanceand heritage value, cemeteries, burial grounds, funerary objects and grave markers merit a special status. They may fall within the “other” category of the CRM Policy and are managed according to Management Directive 2.3.1 Human Remains, Cemeteries and Burial Grounds. The directive provides guidance for managing these valuable and sensitive resources. Some practices found within the CRM Policy and in these guidelines are applicable and are found in the directive. Moreover, all known cemeteries and burial grounds, funerary objects and grave markers should be inventoried. They should be evaluated to determine which cultural groups they may be historically or culturally associated with. Above all, the resources and associated documentation should be treated with dignity and respect. They should be preserved and protected. All actions affecting these resources should consider their heritage value and spiritual significance. To ensure their protection, access to the sites, the objects and the information may be restricted, depending on the wishes of the interested parties.  CISs and management plans should include all known cemeteries and/or burial grounds, grave markers, and funerary objects. Management plans need to address how cemeteries and/or burial grounds will be managed.  

  • Human Remains

    Under the CRM Policy Parks Canada does not consider human remains to be cultural or archaeological resources. Although they may have heritage value for their associated cultural groups or next of kin and scientific value for researchers, to classify them as resources may be considered irreverent and may diminish their spiritual significance. All human remains should be treated with respect and dignity. However, if human remains are known to exist in archaeological collections, they should be included in CISs and management plans. To omit them from these documents gives the land manager and interested parties an incomplete picture. Yet, there might be occasions when this is not possible, such as when the next of kin or the historically or culturally associated group(s) may ask that they not be included in these documents. Parks Canada will endeavour to respect these requests. 

Consideration of Historic Value in Actions

The management of archaeological resources will be fully integrated with the planning and the delivery of all programs.

  • Impact Assessment

    Review of projects or activities that could potentially affect archaeological resources is essential to the proper management of these resources. Impacts on archaeological resources can vary considerably from partial disturbance to total destruction of archaeological sites. All projects or activities require an archaeological review to assess the level of threat to an archaeological resource and to determine the degree of mitigation, if any, required to remove or limit the effects of the threat.

  • Identification of Threats

    Archaeological resources could be subject to threats from:

  • human impacts (e.g. visitor use, looting or vandalism of archaeological sites; poor management practices and poor handling of archaeological objects);
  • natural forces (e.g. erosion and animal activity for archaeological sites
  • corrosion and poor storage conditions for archaeological objects, collection management issues;
  • presentation and display; and
  • development, recapitalization or maintenance activities
  • Mitigation

    Human and natural impacts are primary threats to archaeological resources. Mitigation is a process that implements approved methods that help avoid or reduce adverse impacts on the historic value of archaeological sites and collections. Parks Canada’s main obligation is to ensure the protection of cultural resources of national historic significance24. As a result, management practice must ensure the protection of archaeological resources, especially Level 1 cultural resources. Level II must be managed according to CRM Policy, while other resources (e.g. human remains) are to be managed under appropriate processes and policies.

    Designing projects to avoid impact on cultural resources is preferable, although this is not always possible. Minimizing the adverse effects on archaeological resources must be a management priority. Adverse effects may  be minimized or prevented through the following:

  • archaeological site stabilization;
  • engineering options such as project redesign, alternative location, or use of alternative technologies;
  • remote sensing or other non-intrusive methods;
  • archaeological surface collection and monitoring of low impact projects;
  • incremental salvage or sample excavation;
  • total excavation;
  • monitoring projects (with stop-work authority);
  • visual or camera monitoring to deter site vandalism and archaeological object removal;
  • limiting visitor access to sites;
  • zoning;
  • the closure of adjacent visitor facilities;
  • media and public education to foster awareness; and
  • appropriate signage.

    For archaeological sites and collections, the appropriate mitigation option is determined by the nature of the resource and any associated threat. Other factors in the decision process include the type and magnitude of the threat, the risk to the resource, the practicality of the intervention and the mitigation costs.

    Archaeological mitigation that includes research and investigation must identify the cost of post-excavation analysis; collections inventory, analysis, processing, conservation and curation; report preparation; and longer-term archaeological resource maintenance. In most cases where mitigation is initiated through an environmental assessment, the proponent is responsible for screening and mitigation costs.

  • Minimizing Threats to Archaeological Collections

    To minimize threats to archaeological collections it is essential to:

  • meet inventory and recording standards;
  • assess historic value;
  • understand the archaeological context;
  • use and handle archaeological collections appropriately;
  • stabilize and monitor deteriorating archaeological objects and records;
  • provide an adequate storage environment; and
  • identify long term conservation needs.

    Parks Canada manages its archaeological collections according to Management Directive 2.1.23: Collection Management System: Archaeological Research Services and Management Directive 2.1.22: Collection Management System: Conservation Services. These directives currently under review provide standards that address threats to collections located in Field Units sites or at Service Centres.  Proper field recording techniques, as outlined in the Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys should be followed. Managing archaeological collections must be carried out in a way that ensures collections maintenance, protection and proper identification, and enhances presentation.

  • Awareness

    In Parks Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and other heritage areas administered by Parks Canada, each archaeological intervention (e.g. salvage, survey, excavation and research) results in an opportunity to build public support and awareness for the Agency’s mandate to protect and present. Archaeological research communicated through signage, publications, Web sites, lectures, media and/or community presentations, contributes to an understanding of Canadian history.

Monitoring and Review of Archaeological Resources

Parks Canada monitors its decisions through compliance with the CIS, the management plan and adherence to the terms and conditions of the archaeological research permit.It also reports on the state of its cultural resources in the State of Protected Heritage Areas Report, the National Asset Review Report, Parks Canada Agency Annual Report and various scientific studies.

The integrity of an archaeological resource is defined according to the state of the resource when inventoried. Its integrity is also defined in relation to the potential information that the resource offers and its presentation capacity. Because the historic value of an archaeological resource often depends on its integrity, all management processes affecting the protection and presentation of the resource must be monitored. The FUS, in concert with archaeologists, must ensure that a funded monitoring schedule is in place for threatened or vulnerable archaeological sites and collections stored either on or off the site. The monitoring schedule should identify changes in the condition of the resource in order to recommend actions to alleviate or prevent threats. It is incumbent upon the FUS to establish monitoring and condition assessment tools for cultural resource protection. These may include, in the case of sensitive archaeological resources, restricting and withholding the site location from public documents25.  In addition, assessing the cumulative impacts of activities on the historic character of the resource is an important way to ensure archaeological resource protection26

Specific monitoring goals and benchmarks that are measurable should be identified in a site’s management plan. An NPC monitoring plan may include zoning that indicates appropriate activities for protecting resources.

17 CRM Policy, 1994, 2.1.1.
18 CRM Policy, 1994, 2.2.
19 Idem.
20 CRM Policy, 1994, 2.2.1.
21 CRM Policy, 1994, 2.2.2.
22 CRM Policy, 1994,
23 The heritage value of funerary objects, grave markers, cemeteries and burial grounds is often recognized in land claims.
24 CRM Policy, 1994,
25 CRM Policy, 1994, 1.2.3.
26 CRM Policy, 1994, 2.3.2.

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