Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys

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4.0 PROVENIENCE SYSTEM

4.1 PROVENIENCE: AN OVERVIEW

A dictionary meaning of Provenience is “place of origin”. In the Parks Canada provenience system, it means the place of origin of an archaeological object, of a cluster of archaeological objects, of a feature or features, of a sample of soil, mortar, charcoal or other material. It can also mean the place of origin of some quantity of information, which could include the absence of cultural remains in some volume of excavation or surveyed area.

The parameters of provenience will include such things as point locations in three-dimensional space defined by a coordinate system, the volume of a stratum of deposition that can be found in an excavation unit, the interior, or part of an interior, of a structure, an entire activity area such as a wintering camp, and a cultural context in terms of time period and social activity.

The recorded description of a provenience includes location data (such as geographic and plan coordinates, elevations, maps, and plans to scale), and a varying amount of written information which includes both hard data and the archaeologist’s interpretations, inferences, and conclusions.

4.1.1 Provenience: Components

The provenience, or “Provenience Number”, comprises SITE NUMBER + OPERATION + SUBOPERATION + LOT, as depicted in the example below from Fort Beausejour National Historic Site of Canada (NHSC), New Brunswick. Each element of the provenience is indicated in bold followed by its description, with the last item (2E1B7) representing a complete Provenience

Number.
2E Site Number (Numeric Character + Alpha Character)
2E1 Operation
2E1B Suboperation
2E1B7 Lot

The core elements of provenience: Site Number, Operation, Suboperation, and Lot, are described in detail in the following sections. Object Catalogue Numbers, though not part of the provenience, strictly speaking, may also be used to record point locations of archaeological objects in the field within a Lot (Section 4.6). This procedure is also detailed. Each section below includes a subsection outlining the definition, application, principles, values, and assignment methods and rules for that element. Examples or “cases” of the application of each element of provenience are provided near the end of this section.

Though the provenience system is national in scope, its products are managed through a network of regional and local databases and repositories. To ensure that all researchers have equal access to the entire data system, each element of provenience has associated data standards designed to facilitate exchange of electronic or digital data and information between Parks Canada Archaeological Databases. These standards are described in Section 4.12.

4.1.2 General Principles of Provenience Application

  1. The Field Notebook(s), information, drawings, images, archaeological objects and samples (all the records from an archaeological investigation) are catalogued, indexed, referenced, and filed alphanumerically by Provenience Number.
  2. To file and facilitate retrieval of archaeological records, it is crucial to assign Provenience Numbers in a logical and consistent manner. It is also essential to establish a rational relationship between the hierarchy of Provenience Numbers and the hierarchy of structures, features, strata, activity areas, and cultural context in a given site.
  3. A Provenience Number may be assigned to all sites or areas where archaeological work has been conducted, even where testing does not produce evidence of cultural materials (e.g., negative test units).
  4. At the Principal Investigator’s discretion, a Provenience Number may also be ascribed to a site or area where no archaeological intervention has taken place. Assigning Provenience Numbers in such circumstances ensures a record is created for future reference, research, and potential archaeological work.
  5. Each element of a provenience should be assigned spatial coordinates. All archaeological sites (under Site Number), Operations, Suboperations, and Lots, must, at a minimum, have associated two-dimensional spatial coordinates although three-dimensional coordinates represent the ideal situation.
  6. A flexible attitude and approach to the application and definition of proveniences should be maintained.

4.1.3 The Provenience System and Archaeological Resource Evaluation

The practice of Cultural Resource Management (CRM), as defined in the Parks Canada CRM Policy (Parks Canada 1994:106-8) requires that four elements be in place in all decision-making that affects cultural resources, including archaeological resources. Of the four elements, the evaluation of resources to determine their historic value has become one of the more useful and widespread management tools. Evaluation enables Parks Canada to determine which resources are considered cultural resources under the policy, and what constitutes their historic value. An understanding of the historic character of the resource helps focus the program’s efforts on protection, presentation and appropriate use.

Under the Parks Canada CRM Policy, resources may be evaluated using a system of “CRM Levels” (Table 2). See the Parks Canada CRM Policy (Parks Canada 1994:106-8) for a more complete understanding of the meaning of each of these levels.

Table 2. Descriptions of Cultural Resource Management (CRM) levels, based on Parks Canada (1994:107-8)

CRM Level Description
Level I A resource of national historic value related to the reason for designation of a National Historic Site
Level II A resource with historic value that is not of national historic significance
Other A resource evaluated and deemed not to meet the criteria for Levels I and II. These resources are exempted from the policy and are managed under other appropriate processes and policies (e.g., grave markers are managed under Management Directive 2.3.1)

The assignment of CRM levels offers Parks Canada an opportunity to manage archaeological resources on a national scale, using standard evaluation criteria as defined in the CRM Policy. As a result, wherever feasible, the Principal Investigator should ascribe a CRM level to a cultural resource, based on the suite of available field data. Parameters for recording these data can be found in Section 4.12 Data and Metadata Standards for Provenience, and the Parks Canada Archaeological Site Inventory Form Guide (Appendix A).

4.2 SITE NUMBER

The Site Number is the key element in the archaeological site records management system for Parks Canada. For research and management, it follows that criteria and parameters on what constitutes an archaeological site in the context of Parks Canada archaeology are required. This, in turn, must have some utility to external researchers. As a result, the following definitions and criteria are offered.

4.2.1 Site Number: Definition

The archaeological site is the largest unit of the provenience system, and is identified by a Site Number. It is an area in which physical evidence of human activity is, or was, located, and in which archaeological investigations are conducted.

4.2.1.1 Archaeological Site: Definition

For the purpose of this document, an archaeological site means a place or area where tangible evidence of past human activity is, or was, located in situ on, below or above the ground, or lands under water, the identification, recovery and understanding of which can be achieved using archaeological research methods.

The above definition serves as the conceptual framework for the identification of an archaeological site for Parks Canada archaeologists. The specific parameters for archaeological site recording are outlined in Section 4.12 Data and Metadata Standards for Provenience, and are further refined using the data fields on the Parks Canada Archaeological Site Inventory Form and Form Guide (Appendix A).

4.2.2 Site Number: Components

A Site Number comprises two parts: a numeric character and an alpha character. The alpha character follows the numeric character, as shown in the example below:

2E Fort Beausejour, the second site identified in New Brunswick (E) under the Parks Canada provenience system.

The alpha characters represent the provinces and territories (Table 3), with a couple of exceptions (Tables 4 and 5), as follows:

Table 3. List of alpha characters and corresponding province or territory.

Character Province or Territory
A
Newfoundland and Labrador
B
Nova Scotia
E
New Brunswick
F
Prince Edward Island
G
Quebec
H
Ontario
K
Manitoba
N
Saskatchewan
R
Alberta
T
British Columbia
X
Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Y
Yukon Territory

The following alpha characters have special meanings (Table 4):

Table 4. List of alpha characters that have special meanings.

Character Description Comments
L Fortress of Louisbourg
M Underwater Sites
U Items from outside sources The 'U' category has been subdivided (e.g., 1U to 10U). For details, please contact the Collections Manager for the appropriate Parks Canada Service Centre, and see Table 5 below for responsibility areas.
V Sites excavated by the Ontario Government

Today, administrative responsibility for Parks Canada’s archaeological objects and records is largely vested in the Service Centres located across the country. These responsibility areas are noted in Table 5.

Table 5. Parks Canada Service Centre responsibility areas with their corresponding characters.

Parks Canada Service Centre Characters
Atlantic Service Centre A, B, E, F, L, 2U
Québec Service Centre G, 3U
Ontario Service Centre (Cornwall) H, 4U
Ontario Service Centre (Ottawa) M, 1U, 8U, 9U, 10U
Western Canada Service Centre (Winnipeg) K, N, X, Y, 5U, T (Chilkoot Trail NHSC), R (Wood Buffalo NPC)
Western Canada Service Centre (Calgary) R, T, 6U

4.2.3 Site Number: Application

Principles
  1. Each archaeological site has a unique Site Number that is assigned by the Principal Investigator, using appropriate Site Numbers approved by the regulating jurisdiction (usually a Service Centre).
  2. The Principal Investigator determines the dimensions of an archaeological site based on a combination of available evidence, the parameters and definitions noted above, and professional judgement.
  3. Each archaeological site has a descriptive name, where possible, associated with the unique Site Number (e.g., 2E Fort Beausejour).
Values
  1. The Site Number is the key element in the site records management system.

4.2.4 Site Number: Assignment

Method
  1. Site Numbers are assigned, by province or territory, by the Principal Investigator, in communication with the Collections Manager, or with the person charged with the administration of Site Numbers, as specified by the responsible CRM Manager of the appropriate Service Centre.
  2. Mandatory (core) site data are entered in Archaeological Databases, as prescribed in Section 4.12 Data and Metadata Standards for Provenience, and the Archaeological Site Inventory Form Guide (Appendix A). Optional data fields are also provided.
  3. Administration of Site Numbers is the responsibility of the CRM Manager of the office with jurisdiction over that area. The CRM Manager may delegate administrative authority to whomever he or she deems appropriate.
  4. Application for Borden Site Numbers (see below) is the obligation and responsibility of the Principal Investigator, who may delegate the task to others as required.
Rules
  1. Mandatory archaeological site data, as outlined in Section 4.12, and Appendix A, must be entered in the Archaeological Database(s) of the appropriate Service Centre at the earliest practicable time.
  2. Mandatory archaeological data must be recorded for all archaeological sites, both surveyed or excavated.
  3. Site Number assignment requires a Field Notebook entry.
  4. All archaeological sites must have associated two-dimensional geographic coordinates (see Section 4.12).
  5. The relevant site area(s) must be mapped (e.g., sketch map, AutoCAD).
  6. All qualifying Parks Canada archaeological sites will receive Borden Site Numbers (see Section 4.2.6) at the earliest practicable time. Note: Agreements between some Aboriginal groups and Parks Canada may preclude the application of this rule.
  7. For informant-reported sites, any available site data, at a minimum, must be entered into the Archaeological Database of the appropriate Service Centre, as soon as practicable.
  8. Previously assigned Site Numbers must not be changed unless authorised by the Principal Investigator in consultation with Collections Management and/or the Archaeological Database Administrator.

4.2.5 Archaeological Surveys

In previous versions of the Manual, the recommended practice had been to assign a Site Number to the area of survey (in the Site Number field), and Operation Numbers to the archaeological sites located therein (in the Operation field). This practice, however, was irregularly and inconsistently applied with the result that Banff NPC, for example, has a unique Site Number for each site (in the Site Number Field), Kluane NPC has separate Site Numbers for each river valley (in the Operation field), and Quttinirpaaq NPC has only one Site Number for the park (in the Site Number field), with each archaeological site recorded as an Operation, in the Operation field.

Best Practice

It is now recommended, as a best practice, to assign a unique Site Number to each site. That is, to record the Site Number strictly under the Site Number field rather than the Operation Number field. This will ensure that each newly recorded site will: 1) have only one unique Site Number; 2) allow for more available Operations, Suboperations, and Lots per site; and 3) streamline the record keeping process.

Although assignment of Site Numbers using the Operation field (e.g., for area surveys) is not recommended, its use is allowed at the discretion of the Principal Investigator.

4.2.6 Borden System of Site Identification

The Borden system of archaeological site identification provides a unique identifier for each archaeological site reported in Canada. Sites are assigned a geographic code based on their latitude and longitude. This code, or “Borden (Site) Number”, is not related to the provenience system of Parks Canada, but it is nationally recognised and represents the only acceptable code for sharing site information with others outside of Parks Canada. As a result, all Parks Canada archaeological sites that meet provincial or territorial criteria will receive Borden Site Numbers. The onus is on the Principal Investigator to apply for Borden Site Numbers at the earliest practicable time and to ensure that the Borden Site Number is cited in all subsequent reports and external correspondence relating to a given site.

The provincial or territorial authority, or the Archaeological Survey of Canada at the Canadian Museum of Civilization ascribes Borden Site Numbers according to the jurisdiction. The Principal Investigator or delegate must apply for Borden Site Numbers from the applicable authority.

4.3 OPERATION NUMBER

4.3.1 Operation: Definition

The Operation is a subdivision of a site and is identified by an Operation Number. It consists of a cardinal number preceded by the Site Number, as shown in the example below:

2E1 The first Operation of site 2E.

4.3.2 Operation Number: Application

Principle
  1. Whenever possible, Operation Numbers should be defined by culturally significant areas within a site.
Values
  1. Identification of culturally significant areas may change over time (e.g., with new data). As a result, new Operations may be added or old ones redefined at the discretion of the Principal Investigator.
  2. The relationship between Operation Numbers and analytical units of the site is crucial to the efficient and effective subsequent use of the data.
  3. Maintain a flexible attitude and approach to the application and definition of Operations.

4.3.3 Operation Number: Assignment

Method
  1. Operation Numbers are assigned sequentially, as required, at the discretion of the Principal Investigator.
Rules
  1. The relevant areas must be mapped, with a map reference (Sects. 6.0 and 8.0) indicated in the Field Notebook.
  2. The procedure requires a Field Notebook entry (Sect. 6.0) to define the purpose of the Operation Number assignment.

4.4 THE SUBOPERATION

4.4.1 Suboperation: Definition

The Suboperation, or “Suboperation Letter”, is a subdivision of an Operation. It is identified by a letter preceded by the Operation Number:

2E1B The second Suboperation (B) of the first Operation in site 2E.

4.4.2 Suboperation: Application

Principle
  1. The simplest but not always satisfactory strategy in excavating consists of a subdivision of the analytical units of the site, the Operations, into manageable horizontal areas, the Suboperations, that are excavated stratigraphically.
Values
  1. The “manageable” criterion noted above relates to the supervision of labour or of archaeological assistants, the need for more or less finely detailed stratigraphic recording, and the excavation techniques used.
  2. In practice, Suboperations generally apply to the smallest horizontal control units of the excavation at a site.
  3. The point made above regarding the need for flexibility in applying the provenience system applies equally to the establishment of Suboperations. The archaeologist should be prepared to extend or re-define Suboperations for the sake of good records management, and as excavation progress reveals configuration and function.

4.4.3 Suboperation: Assignment

Method
  1. Suboperation Letters are assigned in alphabetic sequence (I, O, and Z excluded), at the Principal Investigator’s discretion.
  2. Where feasible, Suboperations are treated as analytical units. This approach enormously facilitates subsequent use of the archaeological records.
Rules
  1. The letters I, O, and Z must not be used (because of almost certain confusion with 1, 0, and 2).
  2. The 23 available Suboperations (I, O, and Z excluded) will be assigned consecutively as a single letter series from A to Y.
  3. Double letter Suboperations, or any other variation thereof, are not allowed.
  4. The procedure requires a Field Notebook or form entry, describing assignment rationale.
  5. The relevant Suboperation area(s) must be mapped.
  6. Archaeological items, both in situ and removed, must be noted or described.
  7. Map or plan references must be indicated in the Field Notebook.
  8. Layer/event, if applicable, must be described.
  9. A summary of Suboperations must be recorded either in the Field Notebook, a Suboperation Summary Form (optional; see Appendix D), or any other media approved by the CRM Manager for the relevant Service Centre.

4.5 THE LOT

4.5.1 Lot: Definition

The Lot is a subdivision of a Suboperation. The Lot Number consists of a cardinal number preceded by the Suboperation Letter:

2E1B7 The seventh Lot in Suboperation B of the first Operation of site 2E.

The Lot, strictly speaking, is the smallest unit in the provenience system. As a result, it is normally the most precise level of location or contextual information as defined by the archaeologist (Note: Object Catalogue Numbers may now be assigned three-dimensional spatial coordinates (see Section 4.6)). The Lot provides precise locational measurements for an excavation or survey.

4.5.2 Lot Number: Application

Principles
  1. All excavated items are assigned Lot Numbers, based on the professional judgement of the archaeologist.
  2. Lots are ideally assigned three-dimensional spatial coordinates but two-dimensional coordinates, at a minimum, may be assigned.
  3. A Lot is correlated with a stratigraphic layer or level wherever practicable.
  4. The crux of the definition of Lot is grounded in those archaeological items found in situ that require precise measurements, as well as the principles, values, and assignment requirements.
Values
  1. Lot numbers are the minimum units of vertical excavation, and should not be confused with Suboperations, which are the minimum units of horizontal excavation.
  2. Lot Numbers may be applied to: $ the spatial volume of a layer of deposition or of a structural element within a Suboperation;
    • an arbitrary volume or level of excavation within a Suboperation;
    • the interface between two deposits, where the interface represents a unique event in the stratification sequence (e.g., the surface of a pit feature corresponding to the event of its original construction);
    • significant clusters of archaeological objects;
    • individual archaeological objects;
    • a sample of soil, mortar, charcoal or other material;
    • backhoe trench walls;
    • borehole tests (core samples).

These are described in detail in Section 4.11.4.

4.5.3 Lot Number: Assignment

Method
  1. Lot Numbers are assigned sequentially, at the Principal Investigator's discretion.
Rules
  1. All Lots should ideally be assigned three-dimensional spatial coordinates. Where this is not feasible, two-dimensional spatial coordinates may be assigned.
  2. The relevant areas must be mapped.
  3. Archaeological items, both in situ and removed, must be noted or described.
  4. The procedure requires a Field Notebook entry to define the purpose of the Lot Number assignment.
Best Practice

Other numbers or auxiliary numbering systems (used as suffixes to Lot Numbers) should not be used.

4.6 CATALOGUING OBJECTS IN THE FIELD

An archaeological object may be assigned an Object Catalogue Number with associated three-dimensional spatial coordinates in the field, at the discretion of the Principal Investigator. Object Catalogue Numbers can add another more refined level of precision for selected point locations of archaeological objects within a Lot.

4.6.1 Object Catalogue Number: Definition

The Object Catalogue Number is the numeric character assigned to an archaeological object. The numeric character follows a complete provenience, and is separated from the Provenience Number by a hyphen. It marks an individual archaeological object so that it can be identified separately from all other archaeological objects from the same Lot.

Example
2E1B7-1 The first catalogued object from the seventh Lot in Suboperation B of the first Operation of site 2E.

4.6.2 Object Catalogue Number: Application

Principles
  1. Archaeological objects within a Lot may, on occasion, need to be catalogued and assigned three-dimensional spatial coordinate data in field situations.
  2. Archaeological objects are assigned Object Catalogue Numbers in the field, at the discretion of the Principal Investigator.
Values
  1. Object Catalogue Numbers for archaeological objects, when assigned three-dimensional spatial coordinates in the field, are the minimum units to which coordinate data is ascribed.

4.6.3 Object Catalogue Number: Assignment

Method
  1. Object Catalogue Numbers are assigned sequentially to selected archaeological objects, at the Principal Investigator's discretion.
  2. An archaeological object that is not ascribed a catalogue number in the field may later be assigned an Object Catalogue Number (e.g., in the laboratory), using the Lot as the minimum level to which coordinate data is ascribed.
Best Practices
  1. An Object Catalogue Number should only be assigned to a single archaeological object, such as a projectile point or fragments from a single ceramic vessel.
  2. Prior to commencing the field project, the Principal Investigator should coordinate number assignment with the Collections Manager or Archaeological Database Administrator (as applicable) to determine the next available Object Catalogue Number(s).
  3. Three-dimensional spatial coordinate data should be ascribed to all archaeological objects that are assigned Object Catalogue Numbers in the field.
  4. An Object Catalogue Number should only be ascribed to an archaeological object that is contained within a Lot.
  5. The catalogued object must be mapped if three-dimensional spatial coordinate data is ascribed.

4.7 GRID SYSTEMS OF EXCAVATION

When relatively large areas containing no visible structural remains must be excavated, it may be convenient to lay out excavation units as grid squares. Labelling the grid squares can be done with reasonable efficiency by assigning Operation Numbers to 23-square rows and Suboperation Letters to the individual squares (Fig. 1). A nice variation on this procedure is to use only 20 Suboperation Letters in each Operation (i.e., 20-square rows) so as to have “round-figure” areas.

GRID SYSTEMS OF EXCAVATION

Figure 1. Example of Suboperation Letters applied to a two-metre grid. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978). Note that large portions of the diagram have been omitted for the purpose of illustration.

This procedure must not be confused, as it often is, with the application of a Cartesian coordinate system that is used to locate units of excavation.

It is best to establish excavation units in a pattern related to the structural or cultural pattern of the site or, failing adequate information to permit that approach, to lay out test excavations in a

progression derived from the evidence they reveal. In these cases the grid system of coordinates is a means for mapping the excavations, not for defining the excavation pattern.

There are cases where it is useful to define the pattern of excavations by a grid. Systematic random sampling of an area by excavation of one-unit square in a hundred, for example, is one such case. Exhaustive or “large area” excavation of the area of interest in which the entire area is first de-turfed and then carried down to overall stratigraphic units, is another. Such approaches to excavating have been rare at historic sites archaeology (in Parks Canada), and their application, while methodologically correct at a specific site, may have significant disadvantages for the subsequent user of the information unless the recording procedures are carefully worked out prior to excavation.

4.7.1 Shipwrecks

For shipwreck excavations, an arbitrary grid system of 2x2 m units is normally employed. First, a grid line is established longitudinally down the centreline of the vessel, or as close as possible, based on surface indications. This becomes the dividing line between Suboperations M and N. Two metre wide Operations are established at right angles to the datum line and extending across the hull of the ship usually starting from the stern. Two metre units are chosen most often as this makes it possible to use even Operation numbers (e.g., 2,4,6,8, etc.), Suboperation Letters A to M would cover the port side, while N to Y would extend out to the starboard side. In most cases, as most shipwreck sites tend to be relatively small, all of the Suboperation Letters need not be used. Each provenience down to the Suboperation level designates a particular 2X2 m grid unit. Lot Numbers may be used in the conventional manner to identify and locate strata, archaeological objects, features, etc. Though arbitrary, this system allows archaeologists to look at a Provenience Number and fairly accurately determine to which area of the vessel it refers.

4.8 BALKS

Balks are unexcavated “walls” which may be left between excavation units to provide stratigraphic control. Scale drawings of the faces or profiles of balks are records of the stratification. After these drawings have been made, and the recording completed, the balks, in turn, are normally excavated. Following are some excavation approaches used by Parks Canada archaeologists.

Stratigraphic Control without Balks

The easiest solution to the problem is not to use balks to maintain stratigraphic control. Instead excavate alternate Suboperations using the intervening unexcavated Suboperations as if they were balks. This approach, commonly called the “checkerboard pattern”, requires the ability to lay out Suboperations rationally before excavation begins.

Balks as Separate Suboperations

This solution leaves narrow balks between larger excavation units. After the stratification has been recorded from the balks, they are excavated as different Suboperations, normally with one Lot Number assigned to each layer. This approach will increase the number of Suboperations, which need to be recorded and defined (Fig. 2).

Balks as Separate Suboperations

Figure 2. Example of balks as separate Suboperations. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978).

Excavating the Suboperation Twice

This solution requires that only part of a Suboperation be excavated initially and that the remainder of the Suboperation be excavated after recording the stratification. As an example, imagine a Suboperation that measures 1.25 m by 1.25 m. Along the north and west sides of the Suboperation are balks 0.25 m wide that will be excavated after the stratigraphy has been recorded (Fig. 3).

Excavating the Suboperation Twice

Figure 3. Example of balks by excavating Suboperations twice. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978).

When excavating the balk, new Lot Numbers must be used. This avoids confusion for field laboratory staff and removes the burden of consolidating archaeological object assemblages and field records after the field project. The Lots or events can later be correlated using a database.

4.9 ADDITIONAL DEFINITIONS

4.9.1 Isolated Archaeological Find

Isolated Archaeological Finds, often called “isolated finds”, or ”findspots”, are commonly encountered during archaeological surveys. The intent of this section is to provide parameters for the identification, recording and reporting of such finds. Consistency in recording will enable more accurate reporting of quantities of archaeological sites and/or isolated archaeological finds under Parks Canada’s administration.

4.9.1.1 Isolated Archaeological Find: Definition

A single archaeological object that is, or was, located in situ on, below or above the ground, or lands under water, such as a single projectile point, or fragments from a single ceramic vessel. Other criteria may be applied to the definition at the discretion of the archaeologist, provided a rationale is included.

Rules
  1. All Isolated Archaeological Finds must be recorded, and must be assigned a
    Provenience Number.
  2. Isolated Archaeological Finds may be reported as an archaeological site at the
    discretion of the Principal Investigator.
  3. A reference must be made in the Field Notebook describing the rationale for assignment as either an Archaeological Site or an Isolated Archaeological Find.
  4. In an Archaeological Database, an Isolated Archaeological Find must be identified as such in a unique field. There is a corresponding field in the Parks Canada Archaeological Site Inventory Form and Form Guide for “Isolated Find” (see Appendix A), to allow for extraction of that data element from a given database.

4.10 ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCE

Archaeological resource is a generic term that is often used to describe components of an archaeological site to which a Provenience Number is normally ascribed, such as archaeological objects, features, or structures. The term “archaeological resource” is synonymous with “archaeological material”, or “archaeological item.”

4.10.1 Archaeological Resource: Definition

Any tangible evidence of past human activity of historical, cultural or scientific interest, such as a feature, structure or archaeological object, located at, or recovered from, an archaeological site or recorded as an isolated archaeological find.

4.11 EXAMPLES OF PROVENIENCE APPLICATION

Following are examples of common applications of the provenience system, including Site Number, Operation, Suboperation, and Lot.

4.11.1 Site Number: Examples of Application

Case A: Typical Examples of Site Numbers

A Site Number may be assigned to a National Historic Site of Canada.

Examples

5A Cape Spear NHSC, St. John's, Newfoundland 8B Grand Pré NHSC, Grand Pré, Nova Scotia 20H St. Louis Mission NHSC, Victoria Harbour, Ontario

A Site Number may also be assigned to an element or an area of a National Historic Site, or to an element of a National Park.

Examples

24G Fort No. 1, Lévis Fort NHSC, Québec 1035G Gîte Wabenaki, La Mauricie NPC, Québec

Case B: Archaeological Excavations

There are numerous cases where the historical or cultural identity of the area of archaeological activity is well-defined. These can include forts, for example, 1E Fort Gaspereau, 2H Fort Wellington, 3T Fort Langley; villages, for example 1F Roma Settlement, 7B Beaubassin; single structures, for example, 1G La Vielle maison des Jésuites, 4E La Coup Drydock, 17H Colonel John By's House; and the locations of battles, such as 25H Battle of the Windmill.

Evidence for structures or activity areas often cannot be identified until after a certain amount of excavation has been undertaken. An example of this is the Richardson Island Site (1127T) in Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site, BC. In 1994, the raised beach component of the site was identified on the basis of a few lithic flakes eroding out of a 2 m high gravel bank. Deeply stratified archaeological deposits dating from 9,300 to 8,300 BP were retrieved in subsequent 1 square metre subsurface tests in 1995 and 1997. However, it wasn’t until a joint University of Victoria – Parks Canada project opened up a larger area in 2001 and 2002 that a number of activity areas were identified (including hearths, chipping stations, structural remains). These were buried under 3 to 4m of regosolic gravels.

Another example is Red Bay NHSC (24M), Labrador, where two to three weeks of underwater test excavations were required to reveal enough structural evidence and archaeological objects to positively identify the remains of a 16th century Basque whaling vessel.

Case C: Exceptional Examples

At the Fortress of Louisbourg, because of the size of the archaeological project, the "site" is divided into a large number of manageable areas in which the individual Site Numbers, 1L, 2L, 3L, etc. correspond to 18th century French town blocks: Block 1, Block 2, etc. At the site of Restigouche,

Site Numbers are applied to individual remains of the engagement: 1M Bienfaisant, 2M Machault, etc.

At Fort Walsh, Site Number 7N is applied to the N.W.M.P post itself, and the closely associated but culturally and socially distinct 6N Farewell's and Solomon's Posts and 8N Fort Walsh Townsite have separate numbers.

Case D: Archaeological Surveys

In British Columbia national parks, all archaeological sites are assigned individual Site Numbers. In Gwaii Haanas NPRC/HHS, for example, over 600 sites have been recorded. These range from large village sites to shell middens and small lithic scatters.

Examples

766T Arrow Creek, an 8,000 year old lithic site 1007T a 300 year old fish trap (unnamed)

4.11.2 Operation: Examples of Application

Case A: Typical Examples of Operation Numbers

24G1 is the first Operation of site 24G, Lévis Forts, NHSC, Fort No. 1, Québec 1H13 is the thirteenth Operation of site 1H, Fort St. Joseph NHSC, Joseph's Island, Ontario 21N97 is the ninety-seventh Operation of site 21N, Batoche NHSC, Saskatchewan

Case B: Defining Culturally Meaningful Units

Experience with this provenience system has led to the development of a fairly standard methodology for excavation layout by Parks Canada archaeologists: where possible, culturally significant areas within a site are labelled as individual Operations.

As an example, imagine a hypothetical site consisting of two separate buildings and three distinct areas (Fig. 4). The main building, a house, consists of four rooms and a shed attached. The other building is a shed with internal divisions. Between the two buildings is a shed with internal divisions. Between the two buildings is a yard. Behind the house is a garden and in front of the house is a road. Each room of the house, plus its shed, receives a different Operation Number; the shed is the sixth Operation, and the yard, garden and road are called Operations seven, eight and nine respectively. Distinct but unidentified areas (e.g., beside the house behind the shed) or buildings each receive new Operation Numbers.

Case B: Defining Culturally Meaningful Units

Figure 4. Example of Operation Number application to structures and activity areas. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978).

This approach is easiest to use when the historic documentation for a site can inform the archaeologist of the layout of the structures being investigated or if there is sufficient evidence of structures on the site to suggest a meaningful layout of Operations before excavation begins. In fact, more often than not, either or both situations are true of the sites excavated by Parks Canada.

However, the approach can be used in the absence of clear evidence for structural layout before excavation, when extensive test trenching may be necessary, if the archaeologist is prepared to assign new Operation Numbers or re-define previously assigned Operation Numbers as evidence of structures or distinct activity areas emerges from the excavation.

Case C: Guidelines for Using and Ascribing Operations

The key to successfully using the Parks Canada system lies in the proper application of the Operation Number. If the Operation Number is applied to culturally significant units on a site, such as structures or activity areas, then it will provide an easy method of indexing source records from the site and communicating excavation strategy to others. If Operations are consistently applied in an arbitrary and artificial manner without regard for structures, features, or activity areas, they become a meaningless extra step in the provenience system, a unit which must be dealt with, but which adds nothing to one's comprehension of the excavation.

For example, it is much easier to compare the archaeological objects from inside a structure with those from outside if one can search for all archaeological objects from Operation one to compare with archaeological objects from Operation two. The same convenience and efficiency can be realised when searching the file of images, drawings, notebook pages or any other source file. To search for similar information from a site which has been excavated using meaningless arbitrary Operations involves a careful examination of the site plan of excavation units to determine what Provenience Numbers refer to the areas in question, followed by a search through the entire file of source materials, archaeological objects or records to locate those sources which refer to the required proveniences.

This application of Operation Numbers to analytical units of the site is crucial to the efficient and effective subsequent use of the data by archaeologists and by the collections researchers who must work with it. It is essential to keep this factor in mind when planning excavation strategy, and to maintain a flexible attitude to the application and definition of proveniences.

4.11.3 Suboperation: Examples of Application

Case A: Typical Examples of Suboperation Letter

8R1B The second Suboperation (B) of the first Operation of site 8R, Nottingham House, Lake Athabaska, Alberta.

4H9C The third Suboperation (C) of the ninth Operation of site 4H, Fort Malden, Amherstburg, Ontario.

Case B: Suboperations as Analytical Units

It is highly desirable, where feasible, that the Suboperations be treated as analytical units, as this will enormously facilitate subsequent use of the records. For example, a small structure excavated in one Operation could be divided into Suboperations on the basis of its structural or functional divisions (Fig. 5), rather than into arbitrary albeit manageable areas.

Case B: Suboperations as Analytical Units

Figure 5. Example of layout of Suboperation excavations, based on Operations shown in Figure 4. This example includes the addition of two Suboperations (3K7A and 3K7B) beyond 3K1. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978).

4.11.4 Lot Number: Examples of Application

Case A: Typical Examples of Lot Number

1G1A1 The first Lot of the first Suboperation (A) of the first Operation of site 1G, La Vieille maison des Jésuites, Sillery, Québec.

3X15N7 The seventh Lot of the thirteenth Suboperation (N) of the fifteenth Operation of site 3X, Quartzite Island, Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories.

1127T12H10 The tenth Lot of the eighth Suboperation (H) of the twelfth Operation of site 1127T, Richardson Island Site, Gwaii Hanaas NPRC/HHS, British Columbia.

Case B: Specific Examples of Lot Number Application

Following are scenarios frequently encountered in the field, and recommended approaches for field recording.

Layer of Deposition

When the archaeologist wishes to label and record a layer of soil in a Suboperation, it may be assigned a separate Lot Number. For stratified sites, the Lot may be used to define a stratigraphic unit (normally a natural or arbitrary layer), or a feature.

In this case, a Lot Number labels a three-dimensional provenience and, by extension, all of the archaeological objects contained in that volume. Normally, a Lot Number is assigned to each soil layer occurring in a Suboperation, whether or not it contains archaeological objects.

This application of Lot Numbers to layers has been the most common usage of Lot Numbers on sites excavated by Parks Canada.

Structural Element

When the archaeologist wishes to excavate, record, or remove an element of a structure, that element may be assigned a Lot Number within the Suboperation.

Archaeological objects found within the volume of an excavated structural element can be part of the Lot or can be assigned additional Lot Numbers either as individual archaeological objects or significant clusters of archaeological objects, as required.

Arbitrary Level

When the archaeologist wishes to excavate in arbitrarily defined levels, each level may be assigned a unique Lot Number.

For example, in excavating a well where there are no discernible layers in the contents, arbitrary levels are used to maintain vertical control. Each arbitrary level may be assigned a Lot Number whether or not it contains archaeological objects.

Stratification Interface

When the archaeologist wishes to record the provenience of a feature that is represented by an interface between strata, that interface may be assigned a Lot Number.

For example, excavation may reveal the cut of a level road through a hill. The line of the cut can be assigned a Lot Number to differentiate it from the material through which the cut was made and the material that subsequently accumulated above the cut line. Such a provenience will be a surface rather than a volume, signifying a specific event.

Archaeological Objects and Samples

A number of approaches have been used for recording archaeological objects and samples for excavations and surveys. These approaches are contingent on the research needs and the discretion of the Principal Investigator.

  1. Archaeological Objects in a Volume of Excavation: Archaeological objects are commonly assigned the Lot Number of a given volume of excavation in which they were found. All of the archaeological objects contained in that volume (e.g., a natural or arbitrary layer, or a feature) may be assigned the same Lot Number/provenience. As soon as practicable, the archaeological objects are catalogued or inventoried sequentially by provenience.
  2. Individual Archaeological Objects: When the archaeologist excavates or surveys an archaeological object whose precise location he or she wishes to record, that archaeological object may be assigned a separate Lot Number. It should be noted that though this practice has been used at many sites over the past years, the assignment of Object Catalogue Numbers with associated three-dimensional spatial coordinates recorded in the field is now encouraged, where practical (see Section 4.6).

    In some cases, this latter practice may even be preferred. For example, while excavating the remains of a building, each piece of building hardware (locks, latches, hinges, etc.) can be located precisely in terms of coordinates and assigned a unique Lot Number. Separate Lot Numbers may also be assigned, for example, to diagnostic archaeological objects distributed over a large expanse at a pre-contact site. This procedure ensures that the record of the precise location of an archaeological object does not become "lost" from the archaeological object itself.
  3. Significant Clusters of Archaeological Objects: When the archaeologist excavates or surveys a cluster of archaeological objects whose location he or she wishes to record, that cluster may be assigned a separate Lot Number.

    For example, during a building’s excavation, the archaeologist may wish to record the precise location of window glass concentrations. As a result, any cluster of window glass may be ascribed a Lot Number and coordinates may be recorded for the cluster.

    Similarly, a surveyed site may contain a cluster of lithic debitage whose precise location the archaeologist may wish to record. The archaeologist may assign a Lot Number, associated two-or three-dimensional coordinates, and other criteria (see Section 4.12) to this cluster.

    Another recurrent situation is the excavation of a broken object, most of which is recovered from a small area. The fragments may be given a separate Lot Number, whose records will preserve the identity and location of the object.
  4. Sample: When the archaeologist takes a sample of soil, mortar, charcoal or other material from an excavation, the sample may be assigned a separate Lot Number, with record of location, exactly as in the case of an individual archaeological object.
Backhoe Trench Wall

A Lot Number may be assigned to the strata of a specific portion of a trench wall, such as may be encountered in a backhoe excavation.

Borehole Tests/Core Samples

Each borehole or core sample may be assigned a Suboperation Letter, and each stratum or layer assigned a Lot Number. If the lowest layer from a core is the same as the layer at the top of the following core, it may be assigned the same Lot Number.

4.12 DATA and METADATA STANDARDS for PROVENIENCE

Over the past years, the use of computer applications to process, track and analyse archaeological

data and information has expanded exponentially. The responsibility for archaeological data maintenance has been dispersed across the country, primarily to the Parks Canada Service Centres, but the data must still be formulated within Parks Canada’s provenience system and recording standards framework. Essential elements of those standards are to ensure that archaeological proveniences carry required or core information for Parks Canada’s archaeological resources, and that the associated data and metadata are available for long term use. In addition, these standards must keep pace with emerging computer applications and technologies, and enable the efficient exchange of electronic data within, and between, databases for national initiatives and jurisdictional changes over time.

To accommodate these requirements, archaeological provenience data and metadata standards are provided here. The following standards are required for all Parks Canada Archaeological Databases to facilitate the output, retrieval and exchange of archaeological data, both internally and externally. While the database per se does not need to integrate all the data standards in its internal design and data structure, it must be able to output all information in accordance with the following standards. These standards will be used in any transfer of information, including printed reports, data files to other units and organizations, and possibly web access to the database. It is also recommended, as a best practice, that each Archaeological Database incorporate these standards into its actual design and data structure.

4.12.1 Site Number

Format
  1. The Site Number is a combination of two separate fields or entities: a numeric field (numeric characters) followed by an alpha field (upper case alpha character) for the province or territory code (see Table 2). It must be possible to separate a Site Number into two components (fields) for the purpose of data transfer.
Mandatory Associated Data and Metadata
  1. All mandatory (and optional) data pertaining to Parks Canada archaeological sites are outlined in the “Parks Canada Archaeological Site Inventory Form” and the associated Form Guide (Appendix A).

4.12.2 Operation

Format
  1. Must be displayed as a numeric field.
  2. The Operation Number must be unique for the site.
Mandatory Associated Data and Metadata
  1. Must indicate date of assignment (from field notes; in format yyyy-mm-dd).
  2. Must contain Field Notebook reference or text definition and rationale for the Operation.
  3. Must indicate full name or Staff Field Number of archaeologist who assigned the Operation Number.
  4. Must indicate Operation name, if applicable.
  5. Must indicate Site Number associated with the Operation.
  6. If the Operation is a “Survey Site Number”, include all of the information required for the Site field.

4.12.3 Suboperation

Format
  1. Must be displayed as a separate, alpha (text) field in upper case.
  2. Must be unique to the Operation it represents.
Mandatory Associated Data and Metadata
  1. Must indicate date of assignment (from field notes; in format yyyy-mm-dd).
  2. Must indicate associated Site and Operation Numbers.
  3. Must contain Field Notebook reference or text definition and rationale for the Suboperation.
  4. Must indicate full name or Staff Field Number of archaeologist who assigned the Suboperation.
  5. Must indicate the dimensions of the Suboperation.

4.12.4 Lot

Format
  1. Must be displayed as a separate field in numeric format.
  2. Must be unique to the Suboperation it represents.
  3. Must not be subdivided into smaller units.
Mandatory Associated Data and Metadata
  1. Must indicate date of assignment (from field notes; in format yyyy-mm-dd).
  2. Must indicate CRM level.
  3. Must contain Field Notebook reference or text definition and rationale of the Lot.
  4. Must contain identification of the Lot (i.e., spatial volume, sample, archaeological object, structural member, etc.).
  5. Must indicate archaeologist (Field Staff Number or full name) who assigned the Lot Number.
  6. Must indicate its associated Site, Operation, and Suboperation Letters.
  7. Must provide the two- or three-dimensional spatial coordinates of the Lot including:
    • the datum used for that Lot (if measured distances are used);
    • the North American Datum if a GPS is used (NAD 83 or NAD 27. NAD 83 is recommended);
    • the method of spatial data acquisition (e.g., transit, GPS, tape) and an assessment of its accuracy;
    • direction of measurement (from north east corner) for measured distances;
    • unit(s) of measurement (metric units are recommended).

4.12.5 Object Catalogue Number

These standards apply only to an archaeological object that is assigned both a catalogue number and coordinate data in a field situation.

Format
  1. Must be displayed as a separate field in numeric format.
  2. Must be unique to the Lot in which it is contained.
  3. Must not be subdivided into smaller units.
Mandatory Associated Data and Metadata
  1. Must indicate date of assignment (from field notes; in format yyyy-mm-dd).
  2. Must contain Field Notebook reference or text definition and rationale for assigning a catalogue number to the archaeological object.
  3. Must indicate the name of the archaeological object (format: object name, descriptor; a controlled vocabulary is recommended), material type and description, and condition assessment according to latest Collections Management standards, or based on archaeological object name authority list for a given Service Centre.
  4. Must indicate the archaeologist (Staff Field Number or full name) who assigned the Object Catalogue Number(s).
  5. Must indicate its associated Lot Number.
  6. Must provide the spatial coordinates of the catalogued object in two- or three-dimensions, including:
    • the datum used for that Lot in which the object is contained (if measured distances are used); in addition, where possible:
    • the North American Datum (NAD 83 or NAD 27. NAD 83 is recommended);
    • the method of spatial data acquisition (transit, GPS, tape measure) and an assessment of its accuracy;
    • direction of measurement (from northeast corner) for measured distances;
    • unit(s) of measurement (metric units are recommended).

4.12.6 Notes

  1. The mandatory associated data fields are established as the minimum set required so that the information can be evaluated and used by whoever works with the output. Other associated fields may be added to suit the purpose of the data set.
  2. Additional metadata fields may later need to be incorporated to meet the National Metadata Standard adopted by Parks Canada (see Parks Canada 2001) for the recording of cultural heritage information.
  3. If information is missing from the database for a mandatory data field, the header should still be included with an explanatory note, indicating that the information is not in the database and how the user can obtain it.
  4. It is not necessary to repeat identical information with each record as long as the information is there and its associations are clear. For example, in a report of all Lots for 1K, Lower Fort Garry NHSC, the mandatory site information needs to appear once and the Operation information needs to appear once for each Operation. Likewise, if all the Lots have spatial coordinate data that were gathered using the same datum and measuring system, then that system needs only to be described once.
  5. Mandatory associated data may appear as fields within the product or as notes to the product (it can be attached as “properties” to a word processing document, for example) but it must be integrally linked to the information.

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