Archaeology is the study of past human cultures.
In Newfoundland and Labrador archaeologists generally tend to concentrate on one of two areas of research:
Unlike historians, who learn about the past through written records, or anthropologists, who study living cultures, archaeologists gather their information from artifacts and site features.
An artifact is any object that has been altered or used by humans. The computer you are sitting at is a modern artifact.
Archaeologists are interested in much older artifacts, from the precontact or historic past. Archaeologists study these objects in order to understand and learn about the people who left them behind.
Archaeologists distinguish between artifacts and site features. Artifacts are portable, like stone tools, bones, pots, or bottles. Features are traces of humans that can not be moved, like fireplaces and firepits, house foundations, or wells.
Artifacts can tell a great deal about how people lived in the past, but most of this information comes from the context in which the artifact was found. For example, a single arrowhead can tell us that people were in the area, but an arrowhead found along side other artifacts and related features can tell us a great deal more about how these people lived. That is why it is so important not to move artifacts when you find them.
It is against the law to look for and dig up archaeological sites and artifacts in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, if you happen to find an artifact or site while gardening, or out walking, you should always take careful note of exactly where and when you found it, and then report it to the Provincial Archaeology Office. They will advise you on what to do.
If you find an artifact you should not move, damage or interfere with it. It is illegal to sell or trade it, or remove it from the Province. It is also illegal to bequeath artifacts in your will. It is the law that any artifacts you may have must be returned to the Province by the person responsible for the administration of your estate. You can find the legal details in the Historic Resources Act .
The most responsible thing to do is turn the artifacts over to the Provincial Archaeology Office, they will then submit them to the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador so that they can be available to the public as well as to students and scholars researching the Province's past.
The Rooms is the primary repository for archaeological artifacts. It was established for long term artifact curation, and has trained archaeologists and conservators to ensure that the condition of the artifacts does not deteriorate.
Ownership of all artifacts rests with the Crown in trust for the people of the Province. The Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation sets guidelines for their care and curation.
Artifacts cannot leave the Province without the Minister's permission, and can never be bought, sold, bequeathed, or traded.
Many people conduct archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador, including archaeology graduate students and professors from Memorial University , archaeologists working with the Provincial Government, and private consulting archaeologists. Each of the following groups are involved in various aspects of archaeology in the Province, and educating people about archaeology: The Provincial Archaeology Office, the of the Rooms , the Archaeology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland , and private consulting archaeologists.
Check out these pages:
Look for these titles in your bookstore or library:Marshall, Ingeborg
Or visit one of the Provinces many local museums and historic sites.
The Provincial Archaeology Office aids the Minister in protecting, preserving, developing, studying, interpreting and promoting the appreciation of the historic resources of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Historic resources can be the works of nature, or of humans, and are of interest within the broad field of science.
Since any proposed project involving land-use has the potential to impact upon historic resources, the PAO is responsible for a wide variety of activities, including the processing of land-use applications referred from various government agencies, and the private sector.
Any project you may be planning which requires ground disturbance that may impact historic resources should involve the Provincial Archaeology Office at the planning stage in order to ensure that mitigative measures to protect the resources are developed early.
The Provincial Archaeology Office welcomes any questions you may have. It is a resource agency for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, as well as for the public and other government agencies.
An Historic Resources Impact Assessment (HRIA) is an evaluation of the effect of a proposed operation or activity on historic resources. HRIAs must be done prior to construction or excavation projects where there is the potential for damage to archaeological remains, above or below the ground. An HRIA is carried out by a professional archaeologist. For more information on HRIA, see the Historic Resources Assessment and Impact Management Summary webpages, and contact the PAO.
The archaeological resources you come across could be very significant to your province, your community and you. The benefits of preserving an archaeological site will often far outweigh the inconveniences.
Any projects you are planning which require ground disturbance should involve the Provincial Archaeology Office at the planning stage in order to ensure that mitigative measures to protect historic resources are developed early.
If you find any archaeological remains in the course of your work, such as stone, bone or iron tools, concentrations of bone, charcoal or burned fireplaces, house pits and/or foundations, activity in the area of the find should cease immediately. Contact the Provincial Archaeology Office as soon as possible.
Don't move or damage the remains. The Provincial Archaeology Office will advise you on what steps that will need to be taken before your activity resumes.
Willfully damaging an archaeological resource is a serious offence, as is excavating archaeological remains without a permit, or selling artifacts.
Stop work orders may be issued by the Minister if ongoing work has the potential to damage historic resources. Penalties are outlined in the Historic Resources Act. Each day, or part of a day, that such activity contravenes the Historic Resources Act constitutes a separate offence. If convicted, you will owe a debt to the province in the amount spent on the restoration of the historic resource or historic site damaged.
Legal details may be found in the Historic Resources Act
All artifacts found in Newfoundland and Labrador are the property of the Province (see the Historic Resources Act ).
The Museum has the staff and resources available for the long term curation of artifacts within the Province.
The Museum makes archaeological materials from all over the province available to researchers, students and the general public who wish to study them. The Museum also lends artifacts to communities which have local facilities that meet acceptable conservation and security standards.
The Rooms Provincial Museum Division and Labrador will loan archaeology collections to local museums for their displays where possible.
Before artifacts can be borrowed, a number of conservation and security standards must be met, in order to ensure that no damage will come to the artifacts on display. Contact The Rooms Provincial Museum Division with any questions you may have about borrowing artifacts.