19th Century Rural Historical Farmsteads: Standards for Consultant Archaeologists

ERO number
Notice type
Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries
Notice stage
Proposal posted
Comment period
December 6, 2021 - March 1, 2022 (85 days) Closed
Last updated

There is no requirement to post this notice on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, but we want to hear your thoughts. Submit a comment and tell us what you think. Learn about the consultation process and types of notices on the registry.

This consultation was open from:

December 6, 2021
to March 1, 2022

Proposal summary

We are proposing new technical standards for the archaeological excavation and reporting of 19th century rural historical farmstead sites. We want to reduce the need for excavation on these sites through improved analysis and documentation at earlier stages of the archaeological assessment process.

Why consultation isn't required

There are no anticipated environmental impacts as a result of these proposed standards.

Proposal details

Proposed standards

As a term and condition of holding an archaeological licence, consultant archaeologists must comply with the archaeological fieldwork and reporting standards in the 2011 Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists (Standards and Guidelines).

The proposed new standards are an extension of the 2011 Standards and Guidelines and are based on existing best practice guidance in our bulletin The Archaeology of Rural Historical Farmsteads (2014).

The proposed standards will shift some requirements for background research, analysis and documentation to earlier stages of the assessment process. This will help reduce Stage 4 excavation of RHF sites with low levels of cultural heritage value or interest (CHVI) while ensuring significant RHF sites are conserved through excavation, avoidance and protection, or a combination.

As the proposed standards are based on existing best practice guidance, many consultant archaeologists are already familiar with these strategies. The proposed standards will help ensure that all consultant archaeologists approach RHF sites in an efficient and consistent way.

The new standards will not apply to RHF sites that may have been occupied by Indigenous peoples, nor sites occupied by other populations that are not well represented in the archaeology of the 19th century.

Rural historical farmstead sites

For the purposes of the proposed new standards, “Rural Historical Farmstead (RHF) sites” are defined as 19th century archaeological sites dating between 1830 and 1900, associated with household level farming, occupied by people of European descent, and found in areas that have not been subject to modern development (e.g., farm fields, fallow fields and woodlots).

All RHF sites have some degree of CHVI. The proposed standards will assist    consultant archaeologists in identifying an RHF site’s significance earlier in the archaeological assessment process.

Background: archaeology in Ontario

Under the Ontario Heritage Act, the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries is responsible for licensing archaeologists. Over 98% of the archaeology that takes place in Ontario is carried out by consultant archaeologists. These archaeologists conduct archaeological assessments to help ensure that archaeological sites are conserved as part of the land use planning and development process. As a term and condition of their licence, consultant archaeologists are required to comply with archaeological fieldwork and reporting standards set by the ministry.

The ministry’s 2011 Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists set out a four-stage archaeological assessment process, which includes:

Stage 1: background study and optional property inspection to confirm whether a property has the potential to contain archaeological sites.

Stage 2: property assessment to identify any archaeological sites present.

Stage 3: archaeological site assessment, to determine the nature and extent of identified sites.

Stage 4: mitigation of development impacts for sites with a degree of CHVI, either through excavation or avoidance and long-term protection.

Not all sites require all stages. The stages required depend on whether archaeological sites are found on a property and whether those sites have high levels of CHVI. Criteria to help consultant archaeologists determine if a site has CHVI are set out in the 2011 Standards and Guidelines.

Analysis of regulatory impact

We do not anticipate the proposed new standards to result in increased requirements for consultant archaeologists. We anticipate that they will shift when certain activities will occur during the archaeological process. We do not anticipate that the standards will result in new direct costs for consultant archaeologists.

Overall, the new standards ensure that significant RHF sites are conserved through excavation, avoidance and protection, or a combination, while also resulting in lowered costs and shorter archaeological assessment timelines for development projects. This will be confirmed through further analysis of feedback received through this posting.


This posting is an opportunity for consultant archaeologists, development sector stakeholders and Indigenous communities to provide comment on the proposed new standards.

How to participate:

  1. Read the draft standards: 19th Century Rural Historical Farmstead Sites: Standards for Consultant Archaeologists.
  2. Submit your feedback.

Submit comments through the Environmental Registry of Ontario by March 1, 2022.

Once the posting period has ended, all feedback received will be reviewed and considered. Feedback will be used to inform the final standards. A new guidance bulletin to accompany the standards and replace The Archaeology of Rural Historical Farmsteads (2014) will also be developed based on the questions and feedback received. 

The final standards will be posted on the ministry’s website for 60 days before coming into effect. Once implemented, all licensed consultant archaeologists working in Ontario will be required to follow the new standards as a term and condition of their licence.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Archaeology Program Unit

5th Flr, 400 University Ave
Toronto, ON
M7A 2R9

Office phone number


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from December 6, 2021
to March 1, 2022

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