Stage 1: background study and property inspection
The consultant archaeologist determines whether there is potential for archaeological sites on the property. He or she reviews geographic, land use and historical information for the property and the relevant surrounding area, visits the property to inspect its current condition and contacts this ministry to find out whether or not there are any known archaeological sites on or near the property. A Stage 2 assessment is required when the consultant archaeologist identifies areas of archaeological potential.
Stage 2: property assessment
The consultant archaeologist surveys the land to identify any archaeological resources on the property being developed. For a ploughed field, he or she will walk back and forth over it looking for artifacts on the surface. In forests, overgrown pasture areas or any other places that cannot be ploughed, he or she will dig parallel rows of small holes, called test pits, down to sterile subsoil at regular intervals and sift the soil to look for artifacts. He or she may use other strategies if properties are paved, covered in fill or have deeply buried former topsoils (such as floodplains or former sand dunes). The consultant archaeologist will help determine whether any archaeological resources found are of sufficient cultural heritage value or interest to require Stage 3 assessment.
Stage 3: site-specific assessment
This stage is for all archaeological sites that may be of cultural heritage value or interest. The consultant archaeologist accurately determines the size of the archaeological site, evaluates its cultural heritage value or interest and, where necessary, makes recommendations for Stage 4 mitigation strategies. To this end, he or she conducts further background research and fieldwork that expands the information gathered in Stage 2. He or she maps the spatial limits of a site and acquires further information about the site's characteristics by excavating one-metre by one-metre square test units across the site. Based on circumstances, some sites, for example ones that have been paved or are deeply buried, may require specialized methods of assessment..
Stage 4: mitigation of development impacts
This stage involves implementing conservation strategies for archaeological sites that are of cultural heritage value or interest. Determining the best approach for conserving the site may include reviewing possible strategies with the development proponent, the municipality or other approval authority, Aboriginal communities, and other heritage stakeholders.
Conserving archaeological sites that have cultural heritage value or interest does not mean stopping development. Conservation can involve putting long-term protection measures in place around an archaeological site to protect it intact. The site is then avoided while development proceeds around it. This is called protection ‘in situ’ and is always the preferred option for mitigation of development impacts to a site. If protection is not viable, mitigation can involve documenting and removing an archaeological site, through excavation, before development takes place.