Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys

APPENDIX I: Provenience Application – Additional Examples

Atlantic Service Centre (Halifax)

By Charles Burke

The archaeological survey of the Fortress of Louisbourg NHS led to the discovery of hundreds of surface remains of features constructed during the 18th century sieges. In general, the features correspond to "works" identified on period maps and plans. For example, 16 unique structural features (stone foundations that can be seen as a single analytical unit) were clustered in the location identified on siege plans as the site of Lt. Gen. Lascelle's 47th Regiment Camp. This area is within Archaeological Site Number 61L. At the time of recording, the next available Operation Number was 13 and we assigned consecutive Suboperation Letters to each feature. Consequently, all known features associated with Lascelle's Camp are identified, recorded, and catalogued as 61L13A -13R. This approach was consistently applied to the discovery of more than 800 features.

A second example involves archaeological testing of a new road corridor through the historic park. The corridor was 2.60 km long with 22,000 square metres to test. The tests were .50 m square units at 7.0 m. intervals on each survey transect. Since the corridor intersected three archaeological site areas (54L, 59L, 60L), we assigned three Operation Numbers (54L52, 59L13, and 60L2) to the test. Within each operation, a single Suboperation was designated to geographic zones. In 59L, for example, tests in the corridor south of Route 22 were designated 59L13A and those on the north side as 59L13B. Each shovel probe was excavated as a single lot. When we encountered "sites" that required additional excavation, we reverted to the provenience system's standard usage.

Ontario Service Centre (Cornwall)

By Brian Ross

Following is a brief description of how I have applied the system to my work. The key element of my interpretation of the system is the application of a rigid geographic hierarchy to my provenience numbering. As my numbers are read from left to right, one hones in, closer and closer, to a specific location. As applied to excavations, any artefact or record can be pinpointed, through the provenience number alone, to a 5 cm deposition and 1x1 m distribution. For example:

Site Number: As the largest unit of the provenience system, Site Numbers have been assigned to each of the National Parks or National Historic Sites (e.g., 11H = Point Pelee National Park).

Operation: As a subdivision of the site, this number is used to designate specific areas within the parks and sites (e.g., 11H15 = the Marsh Boardwalk Day Use Area at Point Pelee).

Suboperation: In excavations, each unit is assigned a Suboperation Letter. Generally speaking, I try to always dig in 2X2 m units. In surveys, Suboperations are used to subdivide the operation into smaller, more manageable or more descriptive areas (e.g., 11H15D = the main parking lot at the Marsh Boardwalk, 11H15E = the back dune area, etc.)

Lot Number: In pace-and-shovel surveys, Lot Numbers are assigned to productive test pits and in walkover surveys, they can be used to designate surface finds (e.g., 11H15E1-124). In excavations, the Lot Number depicts the specific vertical sequence for each Suboperation or to discrete cultural features. It has been my use of Lot Numbers in excavations that distinguishes my provenience system most from the true Parks Canada system. Each number within the three-digit field conveys specific information:

The first character (1_ _, 2 _ _, 3 _ _, etc.) indicates the vertical sequence of natural soil stratigraphy.

The second character (_1_, _2_, _3_, etc.) indicates the sequence of arbitrary 5-cm levels within natural strata that are more than 5-cm thick. For shallow strata that do not exceed 5 cm in thickness, then only the designation "1" (for a single level) need be assigned.

The last character identifies the specific quadrant within the Suboperation where the strata occur. Quadrants are identified in a clockwise direction from the north west as follows: _ _ 1 = NW quad, _ _ 2 = NE quad, _ _ 3 = SE quad and _ _ 4 = SW quad.

Features are dealt with, in sequence, as any other stratum.

Ontario Service Centre (Ottawa), Underwater Archaeology Unit

By Jim Ringer

Here is an example of a somewhat artificial system used during the survey of shipwrecks at Fathom Five National Marine Conservation Area. A Site Number (38M) was used to designate the park. Operation and Suboperation 1A were purely artificial and referred to nothing in particular. Each shipwreck was given an individual Lot Number so that, for example, 38M1A17 refers to the Arabia. This system was adopted as no excavation was carried out and our work only entailed assessment and documentation of the visible remains. The provenience system functioned mainly as a device to control the records generated by the project.

Western Canada Service Centre (West Coast)

By Daryl Fedje

We use the provenience system in a somewhat different manner than is the case in other regions. In large part, this is a result of our work focussing on First Nations archaeology rather than military or fur trade historic archaeology.

Each archaeological site, whether an isolated find or a large village, is identified by a unique site number. We use the Operation Number to identify an excavation block or a single test if not contiguous with others.

The Suboperation is used (beyond the default Suboperation 'A') when there is a need for systematic division of an Operation. Most commonly these are 1.0, 0.5 or 0.25 m squares. The reason for using a quadrant or grid division is that the prehistoric sites we normally excavate have no superficial evidence of structural/activity elements and these often are only derived from 3-D mapping or statistical analysis (i.e., nearest neighbour, etc. of grid-provenience artefact assemblages).

The Lot is primarily used to define a stratigraphic unit, whether a natural or arbitrary layer. Features are also given Lot Numbers but not consecutive with those assigned to layers (e.g., a hearth feature, posthole or artefact cluster, may be designated Lot 101, 102, etc.)

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