Archaeology in B.C.

British Columbia's heritage includes archaeological sites - the physical evidence of how and where people lived in the past.  

For most of time that people have lived in B.C., no written records were made. Archaeological sites and oral tradition are the only vestiges of a rich history; protecting and conserving this rich, fragile legacy and non-renewable natural resource is valuable to First Nations, local communities and the general public.

Scientific, cultural and historical study of the physical remains of past human activity is essential to understanding and appreciating cultural development in B.C. Archaeological sites in B.C. may be of regional, provincial, national or international significance, and may be as much as 14,000 years old.

There are over 50,000 known archaeological sites in B.C., including ancient stone carvings, remains of ancient houses and campsites, shell middens, and culturally modified trees.

The Provincial Government recognizes the importance of archaeological sites through the Heritage Conservation Act.  Under this Act, the Archaeology Branch is responsible for maintaining and distributing archaeological information and deciding if permits can be issued to allow development to take place within protected sites.

Archaeological sites on both public and private land are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act and must not be altered without a permit.

Report Finding an Archaeological Artifact or Human Remains

Every year in B.C. archaeological artifacts and sites are discovered by people out hiking, digging in their garden, doing home renovations, developing property, or working on the land base.

Archaeology Professionals

Archaeological resource management professionals and professional consulting archaeologists help ensure sites are protected and managed for their historical, cultural, scientific and educational value to the public, communities and First Nations.

First Nations

First Nations help protect archaeological sites by contributing traditional knowledge and values.

Local Governments

By integrating archaeological resource management into planning and development approval processes, municipalities and regional districts and local government partners play a role in the preservation of B.C.'s past.

Crown Land & Natural Resource Users

Companies and individuals engaged in natural resource extraction must take steps to identify protected archaeological sites that will be directly or indirectly disturbed by operational activities.

Private, Commercial or Development Property

Property owners and developers can request archaeological site information and, if necessary, engage a professional archaeologist before developing on private or commercial property. 

Archaeological Data & Site Records

Archaeological data and site records are available in certain situations to specific individuals or groups.

Archaeological Permits

All archaeological sites in B.C. are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. This applies whether sites are located on public or private land, and whether the site is known or unknown. Protected archaeological sites may not be altered or changed in any manner without a permit.

Assessments & Studies

Archaeological assessments and studies help determine what impact proposed projects will have on known or unknown archaeological sites.