Archaeology in B.C.

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

Last updated: August 19, 2022

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Archaeological sites and oral tradition provide insight into the rich history of B.C. Protecting and conserving this fragile legacy and non-renewable natural resource is valuable to everyone, including Indigenous peoples, local communities, and the general public. Archaeological sites in B.C. may also be of regional, provincial, national and international significance.

There are over 55,000 archaeological sites recorded in B.C.’s Provincial Heritage Register including the remains of village and other habitation sites, as well as resource procurement activities such as fishing weirs and culturally modified trees. These sites may date anywhere from recent times to 14,000+ years ago, and studies are ongoing to uncover new information. The respectful and Indigenous-inclusive study of the physical remains of past human activity is essential to understanding and appreciating cultural development in B.C., and 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.

Heritage Conservation Act Transformation Project

The Province has a mandate to undertake Phase 1 of the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) Transformation Project, which includes broad engagement with Modern Treaty Nations, First Nations, and key stakeholders on:

  • The HCA and its administration
  • Alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • The engagement process itself

Phase 1 will serve to inform priority areas of change to align the HCA with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to transform the HCA to better meet the needs of all British Columbians.

For information about the Heritage Conservation Act Transformation Project, click here.

Inquire about contraventions, finds, or properties

Report a possible contravention

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

If you are concerned the HCA was or is being violated, you can report a contravention to the branch.

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. Learn more about how to report an archaeological find.

Request archaeological information about a property

Archaeological data and site records about properties are available in certain situations to specific individuals or groups. Learn if you qualify, and how to access available archaeological data and site records.

Access resources relevant to...

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. Access resources and information relevant to archaeology professionals.

Crown land and 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. Learn how to manage and mitigate impacts to archaeological sites.

Indigenous governments

Indigenous governments help protect archaeological sites by contributing traditional knowledge and values. Access archaeological resources and information relevant to Indigenous governments.

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. Learn what role local governments and their partners play in the preservation of B.C.'s past.

Property owners and developers

Property owners and developers can request archaeological site information and, if necessary, engage a professional archaeologist before developing on private or commercial property. Learn about how to request archaeological site information, apply for permits, or engage a professional consulting archaeologist.

Learn about permits and studies

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. Learn about the different types of archaeological permits and how to apply for them.

Archaeological assessments and studies

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