Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys


This Manual outlines the Parks Canada Agency (hereafter called “Parks Canada”) recording system for archaeological excavations and surveys as well as the principles, best practices and procedures to be followed by anyone conducting an archaeological investigation on properties administered by Parks Canada or under a Parks Canada permit (Parks Canada 2005a). This includes archaeologists employed by Parks Canada, as well as contractors or any other person engaged in land or underwater archaeological research. The current Manual replaces the 1978 manual (Parks Canada 1978), and is to be used hereafter for all Parks Canada archaeological projects.

Note that in areas where final comprehensive land claim agreements have been signed, the latter are legally binding and override Parks Canada policies and directives, and may override the procedures outlined in the current Manual. Parks Canada must adhere to sections and clauses in the agreements pertaining to archaeology and archaeological resources on federal Crown lands and lands under water under its administration and control (Parks Canada 2005b).

This is the latest version of a manual with a long history. J.H. Rick prepared the first manual for Parks Canada archaeologists in 1963, followed by a 1973 Archaeological Excavation Manual (Parks Canada 1973) edited by J. D. Swannack. Both of these documents focussed on excavation procedures, and included rudimentary records standards. With the advent of computer systems and the decentralisation of archaeological research in the late 1970s, it was recognised that a new manual was required that would permit a certain level of standardisation of recording. Standardisation was considered necessary for an integrated electronic database system, and to facilitate the efficient exchange of information among regional and program headquarters. As a result, in 1977, A. E. Wilson and J. R. Henderson, under the direction of J. D. Swannack, produced the “Parks Canada Archaeology Manual Volume 1: Excavation Records System” (Parks Canada 1977). That manual was reprinted in 1978 with minor changes to one of the form examples (Parks Canada 1978). A second volume pertaining to Collections Management procedures was originally planned (Parks Canada 1978), but was never realised.

An attempt to revise the manual in the early 1990s regrettably never reached fruition. The current Manual is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Pierre Nadon who, in the early 1990s, coordinated consultation sessions with Parks Canada archaeologists across the country and drafted preliminary revisions of the Manual. Prior to his passing in 2003, Dr. Nadon provided valuable background information on the previous consultations, and copies of previous manual drafts from the 1990s that were instrumental in revising the current document.

This revised version (Version1.0) is the result of consultation with Parks Canada archaeologists and archaeological collections specialists over a period of many years. At the core of this revision is the input and direction of the Archaeological Recording Manual Working Group, comprising Gary Adams, Charles Burke, Monique Élie, Daryl Fedje, Brian Ross, and Jim Ringer, as well as Jennifer Hamilton and Robert Gauvin. Colleagues from the Archaeological Services Branch also provided valuable input and advice: Daniel LaRoche, Dan Pagé, Thomas (TJ) Hammer, Jim Molnar, Virginia Myles, Helen Dunlop, and Christophe Rivet. I am also grateful for the contributions, guidance, and support of Ellen Lee, Robert Harrold, and Lyle Henderson. Countless discussions were held with, and input provided by, numerous archaeologists, collections managers, conservators, policy analysts, and information management staff. Thanks are extended to David Arthurs, Debbie Cochrane, Richard Dennis, Paul Downie, Mary Lou Doyle, Candis Emery, Matt Glaude, Rod Heitzmann, Shelley Isabelle, Barbara Lescovec, Sandra Leduc, Charles Lindsay, Stephen Lohnes, Earl Luffman, Alain Messier, André Miller, Christine Persohn, Caroline Phillips, Jack Porter, Mario Savard, Virginia Sheehan, Janet Stoddard, and Sharon Thomson. These individuals either discussed and contributed topics directly, or posted comments via a national archaeological group discussion database (which also serves as the decision archive for this project). I would also like to thank Yves LaBrèche and Suzanne Labrèche for their excellent translation of the Manual into French, as well as Parks Canada’s Cultural Resources Council and Executive Board for their comments and support.

Suggestions for improvements and for additional Manual topics are welcomed.

Stephen Savauge
Archaeological Services Branch, Parks Canada Agency
September 2005

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