How does the law apply to archaeological sites on private property?
Archaeological sites in British Columbia older than 1846, and all burials, aboriginal rock paintings or carvings of any age, are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. Aeroplane and ship wrecks more than three years old are also protected. Destruction or unauthorised alteration of protected archaeological sites is against the law.
What to do when . . .
- You’ve been informed by the Provincial Government that a protected site may be located on your property:
You may want to hire an archaeologist to determine the extent and significance of the site. This will provide certainty about where you or a subsequent owner will be required to obtain permits to alter the land surface. The site records will be updated to reflect where there is protected site, or where there is none. If permits are not required you may then alter the land surface, however, if in the course of modifications to the land surface you uncover archaeological deposits, then call a professional archaeologist. If you find human remains call the local police immediately.
If you want to alter the land surface within the boundaries of a known site you may require a Site Alteration Permit. You may contact a professional archaeologist at this point to assist you with the process.
- You suspect you might have an archaeological site on your property, but don’t know if it is recorded or protected:
A professional archaeologist can find out if there is a recorded site on the property. If it is unrecorded, they can tell you if what you think might be archaeological remains actually is a archaeological and, if it is, whether it is protected or not protected. Sites don’t need to be recorded to be protected.
- You find what you think are human bones on your property:
Leave the remains, including any spoil pile already dug up, completely as-is at the moment you made the discovery. The local police force must be informed immediately. If you think the remains are likely archaeological, inform the police of this. Experts will make the determination of whether the found human remains are archaeological or forensic in nature. In either case, the remains are significant and must be recovered with care.
How can the archaeologists at Millennia Research Limited assist you?
The archaeologists at Millennia Research can assist you with your land development plans by determining if there are any archaeological remains on your property. Our staff are experts in distinguishing archaeological from natural remains, and sometimes have discovered that what was originally described as an archaeological site is actually a natural deposit. If archaeological remains are present, we can determine the extent of significant archaeological deposits on your property, assist in applications for permits, and provide you with alternatives that encourage heritage stewardship. If you want, we can show you typical archaeological materials so you know what to avoid if you are digging. Our staff strives to provide our clients with cost effective measures to develop land, while preserving archaeological resources.
For more information about our services, please see our Archaeological Assessments page.
Millennia Research Limited assumes no liability for any interpretations of the Heritage Conservation Act on this web document.