Preliminary Field Reconnaissance

Preliminary Field Reconnaissance studies (PFRs) are non-permitted field studies designed to assess the potential for archaeological sites to be present within an area.

Last updated: February 3, 2021 


For this kind of study, an archaeologist walks over an area or specific property where development is proposed, and assesses the potential for archaeological sites to be present based on their observations, the type of terrain, and their knowledge of the area. 

PFRs cannot determine the presence of buried sites, because a permit under the Heritage Conservation Act is required in order for an archaeologist to dig shovel tests or conduct other subsurface work with the objective of finding, altering, or defining sites. 

PFRs should be conducted under the supervision of someone recognized by the Archaeology Branch as a Field Director, to ensure that all work is done to established standards.

A PFR will make recommendations regarding the necessity for additional archaeological work, such as an Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA). In situations where the presence of archaeological sites is suspected (for example, due to the nearby presence of sites on similar terrain), it may be prudent to proceed directly to an AIA, which is a permitted study and is used to establish the presence or absence of a site, and their scope, prior to any impacts to the site from development.

Note that while PFRs are useful for planning purposes and may result in an AIA being done, they are not a requirement in the Archaeological Impact Assessment process.