Archaeology and the Law

Archaeological Sites and the law

Ontario Heritage Act

Guidelines for Archaeological Sites

Parks Canada - Archaeology

Penalties for disturbing an archaeological site without a licence

The Ontario Heritage Act prohibits anyone from disturbing or altering an archaeological site — whether on land or under water — unless they hold a valid archaeological licence issued by the ministry. You may be disturbing an archaeological site, if you pick up arrowheads in a farmer's field, grade an archaeological site with a bulldozer, or take objects from a shipwreck.
Anyone who disturbs or alters an archaeological site or removes an artifact from a site without a licence can be fined or imprisoned. A person or a director of a corporation found in violation of the act or its regulations can face a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment for up to one year or both. A corporation found in violation of the act or the regulations can face a fine of up to $250,000.
What to do if you find human bones
The Cemeteries Act and the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, when proclaimed in force, require anyone who uncovers a burial site containing human remains to report the discovery to the appropriate authorities — the police or a coroner. Likewise, archaeologists who encounter human remains during archaeological fieldwork are required to comply with all relevant provisions of the Cemeteries Actand Ontario Regulation 133/92 (Burial Sites) as part of the terms and conditions of their archaeological licence.

If human remains are discovered during land development activities, all construction and soil disturbance must stop immediately to allow the authorities to investigate. All archaeological fieldwork must stop until the coroner has had the opportunity to investigate and the Registrar of Cemeteries has been consulted.


Unknown said...

Very interesting.I would like to know what someone should do if they had found an artifact on their home stead property.
As it would not be as an archaeology site.
Many people do find items they dont realize they are artifacts.
A farmer i knew years ago had found arrowheads on his garden plot.
I had asked the museum here in Southampton Ontario.She remarked as long as they werent on arch.sites or disignated counties the person who found the artifacts was free to keep them.
What are the legalities of found garden artifacts?

John Raynor said...

Hi Wendy;
Here is a link to a post on our blog regarding some of the questions you raise. -
Many people own collections of artifacts that they have found on their property. The problem with this is not one of ownership but rather that these artifacts, unless properly analyzed, can not become part of the archaeological record that we use to validate our history in time and place. Where the artifact was found is sometimes as important as what was found and all this information is kept by the province in order to build up a data base that is used as the evidence of history.
An archaeological site is anywhere that and artifact is found whether on private or public land. The difference being if it a registered site or not. Those recorded in the provincial database are the registered sites and it is licensed archaeologists that provided the documentation about the artifact and its location to the province for registration.
Any archaeologist who wants to investigate an archaeological site requires the land owner permission to do so.
I will not purport to give you a leagel opinion as to found artifacts, that is the job of a lawyer but and an archaeologist I would encourage you to contact an archaeologist in your area in order to assess your find and perhaps have it and its location entered into the provincial database. It would be most helpful if you can mark or GPS where this item was found. Photographs of your artifact or collection would also be of great assistance. You can then decided whether to keep the collection or turn it over to a museum or other institution like a university for further research and to be held in trust for the people of Ontario.
If I can be of further assistance please let me know.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your answer.
this has been very informative.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the very informative material an answers.
Yes i understand now if the lands were registered as archaeological.
This land and where the items were found is not in any such area.this is good to know.Or in any Native claims of Ontario.
Its a very interesting.
Yes think a lawyer would be necessary in any advent.
Yes true the artifacts are a very important part of our Ontario History,there is already been consulting with an Archaeologist(has 0ver 30yrs experience) in sending him pictures of many found items.about thirty artifacts were that was the first find is he called a chiefs gorget.(tilled up in the garden).
steps next to see a lawyer an go from there in what actions to take,
Although the arch that has helped with the identifying of these artifact was promised to be told place of finds.being hes worked many years with the museums.
Charlie Garrad would have to mark another site for the nation if its a old village or encampment site.
so i will look into the site you have given me.
Shall return.
thanks again

Unknown said...

I came across an old newspaper article (1867) discussing the discovery of "a vast mine of human bones... undoubtedly those of the aborigines..." in Glanford township. Not sure if this is a known site, and if not whether bringing attention to this would cause problems for the current landowner.

John Raynor said...

Thanks for the comment and info Ken.
Glanford twp is down by Hamilton I believe and this article may reference an Iroquoian ossuary of the Neutral nation. As my focus has been on the Huron/Wendat sites in Huronia I am not in a position to be able to advise you on whether or not there is a known site meeting the circumstance that you describe but I can make inquiries on your behalf and see what the archaeologist familiar with that area know of this. Would it be possible to send or point me to the article? ( It would make a good starting point for finding out more about this site.
As to problems for the landowner? Archaeologist's require consent of the landowner to even enter the property let alone do any research.
In the interim,the OAS has Hamilton chapter with a presence on Facebook that might be of interest to you. -

billfromlachine said...

John Raynor,

Do you have any statistics as to how many arrow heads that are currently in boxes in various basements of museums, etc....that will never see the light of day.

It boggles the mind how many arrow heads do you people need to set the historical record straight in a given area.

Before we know it well have to turn over every rusted bottle cap, nail, pulltab and various other scrap bits for the archeological record. Tell me where the madness will end with you

Unknown said...

How valuable are arrowheads that are found in simcoe county?

Unknown said...

My neighbour has a Shizz Ton of arrowheads picked from farmers fields. Should I turn his ass into the cops and have him arrested or is it o.k. to leave him be with his hoard of sweet, sweet arrowheads. Will I get a reward for calling the cops on him?

Unknown said...

I've found some artifacts could someone please notify me so I can discuss further.