Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys



  1. It is critical to ensure the integrity of archaeological items, their grouping by provenience, and all associated data from the moment the archaeological items are recovered from the field to their reception at the Parks Canada Service Centre laboratory.
  2. All items removed from the field as a result of an archaeological investigation are traceable to the archaeologist’s Field Notebook or forms.
  3. To ensure the above principle, it is essential to adhere to local Parks Canada Service Centre Collections Management procedures, directives, and guidelines.


Archaeologists should take every necessary precaution to ensure provenience control between the time that an archaeological item is excavated, or surface collected in the field, and the time that it has been received in the laboratory. The essential data, described below, must accompany archaeological items, at all times, between their recovery and their reception at the laboratory.

Archaeological items (e.g., archaeological objects, samples, feature components) must be brought or shipped to the Parks Canada Service Centre laboratory with the following information attached:

  • complete Provenience Number;
  • date of recovery (yyyy-mm-dd);
  • full name of archaeologist/collector (and/or Staff Field Number);
  • additional remarks (when necessary).

An archaeological object bag card example is provided in Figure 8. Its format may be adapted to suit the needs of a given Parks Canada Service Centre, provided the essential data noted above are included with the archaeological items removed from the field, and that labelling procedures for bags or cards are in accordance with the Collections Management standards of the appropriate Parks Canada Service Centre. The same approach may be used for other labels ascribed to larger archaeological items (e.g., structural members) removed from the field, as required.


Figure 8. Archaeological Object Bag Card Example. Redrawn by S. Savauge, from Parks Canada (1978).

In the “Remarks” field, for example, one could include object name, material type, or note any special conservation requirements for the items, such as “Keep wet”, “Fragile”, “Do not Wash”, etc. Where there are multiple bags for a Lot, the bags could be numbered sequentially and, if possible, the total number of bags from the Lot indicated, e.g., “Bag 1 of 3" or “Bag 27 of 32.”

Best Practices

  • Any recorded data should be legibly written or printed with stable, indelible ink on a resistant material (whether it is a bag, a card, a tag or a box) and accompany archaeological objects at all times.
  • All collected archaeological items should be packed in containers (e.g., bags, boxes) that are sufficiently resilient to ensure that objects are not lost or mixed with others from a different provenience at any time after their recovery, and especially during their transport to the Parks Canada Service Centre laboratory.
  • For the latest object cataloguing procedures and standards, consult the Collections Manager and Archaeological Conservators at the appropriate Parks Canada Service Centre.

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