What role does archaeology have in development in Nova Scotia?

Archaeological assessment of development in Nova Scotia is governed by the Special Places Protection Act (R.S., c. 438, s. 1.). This act functions to protect archaeological sites within the province of Nova Scotia. Under the Special Places Act, a Category C Heritage Research Permit is issued in advance of real or proposed development activity to ensure that significant archaeological resources are protected. This permit is used to conduct an archaeological resource impact assessment. There are two stages to the assessment: an investigative and a mitigation stage.

What is the process for conducting an archaeological resource impact assessment?

Procedures & Methods:

Investigative Stage:

1. Background research is done to identify known sites and areas of heightened archaeological potential and to develop a historical context for the area. This research includes consultation of archival and published materials, maps and aerial photographs, as well as predictive modelling, consultation with individuals/organizations and consultation of the Maritime Archaeological Resource Inventory (a database of known archaeological sites).

2. Field reconnaissance is conducted by qualified archaeologists to identify archaeological sites or areas of heightened archaeological potential within the study area and specifically within the impact zones.

3. Archaeological testing may be conducted if the background research and field reconnaissance identify archaeological sites or areas of high/moderate potential. Shovel testing is used to gather presence/absence evidence as well as type, extent, tradition and period of the site.

Mitigation Stage:

Avoidance is the preferred method of mitigation. However, in some cases, archaeological sites cannot be avoided and other action may be taken.

1. Monitoring the ground disturbance activities of a development may be done in areas which could not be adequately tested (a heavily developed urban space for example). Monitoring may also be done in cases where ground disturbance is scheduled to occur in close proximity to a site.

2. Excavation, whether full or partial, is done when a significant site cannot be avoided by development and will be impacted. In this case, controlled excavation techniques are employed by qualified archaeologists to recover archaeological resources. Excavation also includes recording of the site, conservation of artifacts, analysis of data and interpretation of results.

When the work for a Category C permit has finished, an archaeological resource impact assessment report is compiled and submitted to the developer and to the Coordinator of Special Places.