Archaeological Assessments

Archaeological Assessments

Archaeological assessments typically consist of one or more of the following stages:

  • Overview,
  • Inventory,
  • Impact Assessment,
  • and Impact Management

Archaeological inventory and impact assessments require a permit under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) from the provincial Archaeology Branch.


An archaeological overview identifies and assesses the potential for, or sensitivity of, archaeological deposits within a proposed study area. Overviews usually include a background library and records search of documents pertinent to the study area, a statement of the potential for finding archaeological deposits in the study area, a preliminary assessment of possible impacts a development could have on any archaeological sites and recommendations concerning the need for further archaeological impact assessment studies. Visit the BC Archaeology Branch website for more information about archaeological overviews.


An archaeological inventory involves the in-field survey and identification of archaeological resources within a project area. Inventory is often part of an impact assessment, but may also stand alone. How the inventory is conducted may be defined by the results of a previous overview assessment, or, in the case of site-specific developments, the direct execution of an inventory study may preclude the need for an overview assessment. A permit under the Heritage Conservation Act is normally required.

Impact Assessment

An archaeological impact assessment involves the survey and testing of a development area prior to ground alteration. The impact assessment is designed to both inventory and assess all the archaeological resources that could be affected by the project. Recommendations are then formulated which help the client in choosing a suitable approach to designing, planning and implementing a development while giving consideration to archaeological resources. A Heritage Conservation Act permit is required in most cases. Visit the BC Archaeology Branch’s website for more information about what an impact assessment entails.

Impact Management

Unavoidable and unanticipated adverse impacts on archaeological sites are managed through mitigation, surveillance, monitoring and emergency impact management measures.

  • Mitigation includes systematic data recovery, analysis and interpretation of at least part of an intact archaeological site, and the proposed work must be approved by the Provincial Archaeology Branch. A Heritage Conservation Act permit may be required.
  • Monitoring is implemented in order to ensure that adverse impacts to archaeological sites that could not be identified or evaluated prior to the commencement of the project are addressed. Monitoring is also undertaken to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures and to determine the total level of impact to an archaeological site.
  • Emergency impact management involves dealing with unanticipated impacts on archaeological sites and may include avoidance of archaeological sites thorough project redesign or relocation, application of site protection measures, and salvage or emergency excavation.

Monitoring and emergency impact management may not require a Heritage Conservation Act permit.

Private Landowners and the HCA

The BC Archaeology Branch has provided the following statement as clarification for the requirements for private landowners under the HCA:

Good afternoon,

The September 3, 2014, Times Colonist article concerning archaeological research and private property has caused some confusion with property owners. Property owners should be aware of the following:

• The Heritage Conservation Act automatically protects archaeological sites meeting the act’s heritage protection criteria.

• There are approximately 40,000 known sites that are automatically protected.

• These sites continue to be protected after the 2013 B.C. Supreme Court ruling regarding archaeological research on private property.

• To alter a protected site, the property owner will require a Site Alteration Permit.

• Where there is sufficient existing information regarding the nature of the site and proposed impacts to the site, the Archaeology Branch will consider site alteration permit applications.

• If there is insufficient information in the site alteration permit application, the Archaeology Branch will not be able to process the application until the information deficiencies are addressed.

• The onus falls upon the property owner to provide the branch with the necessary information about the site and this may include the completion of an archaeological impact assessment. The Branch is not requiring that this work be done but it does require sufficient information before it can issue an alteration permit and the impact assessment is one way of obtaining this information

• It is up to the property owner if they wish to undertake an archaeological impact assessment, but without the necessary information, the branch cannot issue an alteration permit and the property owners cannot alter the archaeological site on their property.

• Property owners can use the Archaeology Branch online site data request form to find out if there is a protected archaeological sites on their property

• Many people engage an archaeological consultant to research and prepare a site alteration permit application. Archaeological consultants can be contacted through the British Columbia Association of Professional Archaeologists or may advertise independently.

More information can be found at these locations:

One Comment

  1. My brother was talking to me about getting some archaeological assessments done. I’m glad you talked about how these assessments involve survey and testing prior to ground alteration. I think that being able to get some of these ideas would be good for him, and help him get what he needs!

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