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Archaeological Management Plans

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Overview and context

The Ontario Heritage Act authorizes the establishment of policies, priorities and programs for the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario. Archaeological sites are a part of our province's heritage. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture has the mandate to determine policies and programs related to the provincial interest in conserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

An Archaeological Management Plan (AMP) is an effective tool that supports the implementation of municipal policies and procedures for identifying and conserving archaeological resources. An AMP also supports the intent of the cultural heritage and archaeological objectives of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005.

What is an Archaeological Management Plan?

ancient face mask

Courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.

An AMP consists of mapping and a strategy that identifies, in varying degrees of detail:

  • areas in a municipality that have known archaeological sites
  • areas with potential for archaeological resources, and
  • more specific locations with sensitive cultural remains such as cemeteries often labeled as ‘archaeological sensitive areas’ (ASAs).

The AMP will contain:

  • well-researched mapping
  • a comprehensive inventory of all known archaeological resources including sensitive cemeteries and burial grounds, and
  • processes and procedures for managing any identified archaeological resources located within a municipality.
reassembled vessel

An Aboriginal community consultation protocol on matters related to archaeological resource conservation may also be developed as an integral part of the AMP.

Did You Know?

An Archaeological Management Plan can benefit a municipality by:

  • Providing an integrated approach to archaeological resource identification and protection
  • Providing clear direction to development proponents, eliminating uncertainty or speculation
  • Providing an effective tool that municipal staff can use to screen development
  • Ensuring archaeological resources are assessed, identified and protected
  • Assisting the scheduling and budgeting of mitigation measures to avoid unexpected delays and costs
  • Assisting in the development of a procedural framework for efficient land use decision making
  • Allowing for cultural heritage educational opportunities
  • Linking to other municipal strategic initiatives, such as cultural assets mapping of a municipal culture plan.

person digging at an archeological site

Who can undertake an Archaeological Management Plan?

A municipality or approval authority can develop or adopt an AMP for all or part of the lands under its jurisdiction.

Purpose and goal of an Archaeological Management Plan

fragments of a teacup and saucer

Courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.

The purpose of an AMP is to create a geographic information system (GIS)-based, user-friendly planning tool that will enable municipal planners from various departments, such as: public works; engineering; parks and recreation; and planning to screen development proposals and identify areas for which a detailed archaeological assessment by a licensed archaeologist would be required.

The goal of an AMP is to inventory, classify and map significant archaeological resources and provide direction for their appropriate assessment and protection, as required.

There are also conservation policies and procedures that are developed as part of an AMP that can be integrated into the municipal official plan and other municipal strategic documents.

Benefits of having an Archaeological Management Plan

Many municipalities have taken the initiative to prepare AMPs to identify their existing and potential archaeological resources, and many more are updating their plans to be consistent with current provincial policies.

This has helped municipalities to develop local policies, procedures and protocols for development and to identify conservation strategies early in the planning process.

The AMP is also a valuable communications/education tool that can help residents recognize the importance of archaeological resources to better understand the cultural heritage of their community. It can also initiate dialogue with all concerned heritage stakeholders, Aboriginal communities and municipal heritage committees over the conservation and protection of archaeological resources and/or burial grounds.

The development of an AMP

The AMP is typically undertaken with the expertise of licensed professional archaeologists. The format of an AMP can be tailored to the unique needs of a municipality, encouraging locally-developed policies and procedures that can be easily implemented by municipal staff.

log cabins in a field        arrowhead

flow chart describing the AMP process

Four main steps in designing an Archaeological Management Plan are:

1) Compile detailed, reliable inventories of archaeological sites, either registered or unregistered, within the municipality. Through a ministry-municipal data sharing agreement, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture will transfer any available archaeological site data for that municipal jurisdiction for land use planning purposes only. Input and knowledge from the public, municipal heritage committees, other local heritage stakeholders and Aboriginal communities should be gathered.

2) Prepare both a prehistorical and historical thematic overview of the community’s settlement history as it relates to the potential occurrence of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal archaeological resources.

3) Develop an archaeological site potential model. Such a model provides land use planners and heritage practitioners with a data supported estimate/approximation of the archaeological resource distribution and a categorization of high and low archaeological potential areas within their jurisdiction.

The model maps the specific cultural, environmental and topographical factors which influence human land use and settlement patterns over history.

archaeological dig in a city          paintings in a cave

 Courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.

The model integrates environmental and cultural-historical factors such as: geology; soils; drainage; topography; proximity to water; degree of recent ground disturbances; known land-based and marine archaeological site locations; historic transportation routes and settlement patterns; and sites associated with significant events, individuals or groups, which may also have commemorative plaques or monuments, etc. These factors collectively result in a model where layers of historical patterns of land use and settlement emerge.

A computer-based GIS is used to apply these patterns to the landscape, identifying and mapping areas of greater and lesser archaeological potential. This model helps identify parameters which can be used to evaluate and potentially decrease the area requiring archaeological assessment within a municipality without compromising valuable archaeological resources.

It is recommended that the archaeological site potential model be subject to a re-evaluation every three to five years, as new archaeological sites and resources may be identified over time. A re-evaluation can also:

  • incorporate any changes in the province’s criteria for archaeological site significance
  • identify data gaps in the site inventory
  • identify changes required to the archaeological potential model, and
  • incorporate any new procedures and protocols related to the implementation of the AMP.
4) Implement the archaeological site prediction model through the development of comprehensive guidelines, policies and procedures enabling efficient and practical integration within the municipality’s existing and future planning policy framework. This may include:
  • preparation of contingency plans, or processes for site management or conservation plans for long term archaeological resource protection
  • engagement of the local and Aboriginal community in the design, implementation and review of the AMP
  • integration of archaeological policies into the official plan, and
  • development of a municipal archaeological review procedure for planning approvals and day-to-day planning responsibilities.

Basic steps in constructing an archaeological site potential model:

  1. Model pre-contact site potential
  2. Model historical site potential
  3. Compile an integrity layer related to more recent site disturbances
  4. Compile a composite archaeological potential layer

vessel               ruins


Archaeological Management Plan sample archaeological potential mapping

 map of a river basin

Before an AMP is in place for a section of the Rideau Canal corridor, City of Ottawa.

map of a river basin with archaeological areas
Courtesy of City of Ottawa

After an AMP is in place for this same section of the Rideau Canal corridor, City of Ottawa identifying archaeological potential buffers and archaeological sensitive areas.

Areas of municipal responsibility that could be subject to an archaeological review:

  • Plans of subdivision and condominium engraved
    stone tablet
  • Site specific official plan amendments
  • Site plans involving large parcels of undisturbed land such as recreational, commercial and industrial projects (e.g., golf courses, trailer parks, industrial parks, shopping malls)
  • Small-scale applications (e.g., consent to sever)
  • Municipal infrastructure projects involving the construction, erection or placing of a building or structure, road developments and widenings, sewage and water projects, wind turbine proposals, etc.
  • Site alteration activities (e.g., site grading, excavation, removal of topsoil/peat, placing and dumping of fill, drainage works)
  • Demolition permits and building relocation activities (e.g., residential and commercial heritage buildings)
    Courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.

Integration of an Archaeological Management Plan into municipal planning policies and processes

The creation of an AMP and related policies can greatly enhance the conservation of archaeological resources while expediting the development plan review process. The following are some ways in which a municipality can integrate their AMP into their planning policies and processes.

Incorporate archaeological policies into the municipal official plan

  • Locations containing areas of archaeological potential can be identified in the official plan in the form of a map or an appendix, and this potential mapping can be made available on the municipality’s website.
  • The official plan can require that where any part of a development application falls within an area of archaeological potential, with known archaeological resources, or an archaeological sensitive area, the application would be subject to assessment by a licensed archaeologist.
  • Official plan policies can outline long term protection policies and related tools such as zoning, heritage easements and archaeological site conservation plans.

Reviewing development proposals and municipal projects

  • The AMP can help a municipality review subdivision applications since each application must identify if the property contains any areas of archaeological potential. Archaeological assessments in potential areas are mandatory for all subdivision applications, as per Ontario Regulation 544/06 under the Planning Act. Conservation plans for long term protection of significant archaeological sites may also be required by this regulation.
  • The AMP can help guide other infrastructure related projects such as road, sewage, aggregate permits and wind energy projects that fall under legislation such as the Environmental Assessment Act, Aggregate Resources Act and the Green Energy Act.

Develop an AMP implementation and review procedure for municipal staff

Setting up and implementing a municipal archaeological review procedure requires close cooperation between those who maintain the AMP GIS potential layers, municipal planning, engineering, public works staff, archaeological review officers and heritage planners at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, as well as Aboriginal communities, archaeological stakeholders and the land development industry.

An archaeological review procedure can determine if a proposed planning application or other site alteration activities require an archaeological field assessment. The review procedure should also outline the Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s review process for the archaeological assessment report and clarify the timing for that ministry’s review.

Engage Aboriginal, local communities and local heritage groups

The design, implementation and review of archaeological management planning studies should be undertaken with full participation of the local and Aboriginal communities by providing them with the opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage.

One way to engage these groups is to invite members of the public and Aboriginal communities to sit on municipal archaeological committees, such as an archaeological management steering committee, when the plan is being developed.

There may be other local heritage groups which should be engaged during the development and implementation of an AMP, given their interests in conserving both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal archaeological resources. Such groups include:

  • members of municipal heritage committees ancient aboriginal
    villagewho are appointed under the Ontario Heritage Act to advise municipal council on a diverse range of cultural heritage matters 
  • historical societies
  • academic archaeologists
  • researchers or students from colleges or universities located within close proximity 
  • local professionally licensed archaeologists, and
  • local chapters of the Ontario Archaeology Society (OAS).

Courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.

For More Information:

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Provincial Planning Policy Branch
(416) 585-6014

Municipal Services Office

Central (Toronto)
(416) 585-6226
Toll Free: 800-668-0230

Western (London)
(519) 873-4020
Toll Free: 800-265-4736

Eastern (Kingston)
(613) 545-2100
Toll Free: 800-267-9438

Northeastern (Sudbury)
(705) 564-0120
Toll Free: 800-461-1193

Northwestern (Thunder Bay)
(807) 475-1651
Toll Free: 800-465-5027

Other Resources

Ministry of Tourism and Culture

General Phone: (416) 326-9326 Toll Free: 866-700-004

Archaeology related guides available at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture webpage:

List of licensed archaeologists available at the Association of Professional Archaeologists (APA) webpage:

Images courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture unless otherwise stated.

Note to User:  This InfoSheet deals in a summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change.  It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter and should not be construed as legal advice by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing or Ministry of Tourism and Culture.  The user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this information.  As such, this Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

Produced by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Provincial Planning Policy Branch

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