(HYBRID IN-PERSON / ONLINE) Archaeology in Urban Settings: Hidden Histories and Connecting to the Past - B

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Saturday, May 6, 2023 - 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Muin Room (Hybrid)
  • Laureen Bryant, City of Calgary
  • Nicole Nicholls, City of Kamloops
Session Description (300 word max): 

In some parts of Canada archaeological legislative requirements sit with provincial governments, some are at the municipal level, and others include distinct participation of local First Nations.  Some municipalities have predictive models to help them manage archaeological resources, while others have been exempted from having to undertake archaeological work.  There is a range of regulations and polices that speak to these heritage sites across the land, and as a result there have been many interesting projects that have revealed the hidden histories within these urban settings.  Consultants undertake extensive projects on behalf of, in collaboration with municipalities, or within a municipal boundary in general. 

However, as many people walk through urban areas, they are unaware of the potential history beneath their feet.  To understand and support heritage conservation people need to know about it.  A small number of municipalities in Canada have hired in-house Archaeologists recognizing the need for policy and process development, site protection on city owned lands, and overall citizen education. But often, building public awareness still falls to consultants and advocational societies.

The goal of this session is to invite all who work or conduct research within urban settings to share papers about their interesting projects, innovations in process, public awareness building, the opportunities they see in urban archaeology and any challenges they may have faced working in urban settings.  

01:00 PM: Revealing the Hidden History of the Medicine Hill Park Land, Calgary
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Brian Vivian - Lifeways of Canada
  • Janet Blakey - Lifeways of Canada

This talk focuses on a recent archaeological assessment of the Medicine Hill Park Land, and steps Calgary Parks has taken to identify the historic resources therein and address the management of these. Previous studies have identified the slopes better known as Paskapoo as one of the densest concentrations of bison kill and processing sites known of in Alberta. The City of Calgary has now taking over management of most of these lands which previously were under private title, creating an urban park area with one of the richest archaeological records known of in Canada. Our summary provides a background of how these sites were discovered to begin, the steps taken to investigate the sites and engage with this First Nations heritage and what directions future research could go in.

01:20 PM: Talking Trash: Preliminary Findings from an 18th and 19th Century Double Midden Feature in Officers’ Square, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Vanessa P. Sullivan - Colbr Consulting Inc.

Officers’ Square, located in the heart of downtown Fredericton, forms part of the Fredericton Military Compound National Historic Site of Canada and has played an important role in the capital city’s ever-changing landscape. Most widely known for its military use from the late 18th century up through the late 19th century, the Square has many stories to tell. In recent years, this public space has been part of the City of Fredericton’s revitalization project. As a result, a great deal of archaeological investigation within Officers’ Square has taken place. This presentation will provide an overview of the archaeological work that occurred in the Square during Colbr Consulting’s 2022 field season, focusing on the mitigation of a double refuse midden feature. The aim of this discussion is to shed light on what archaeologists found and how identified artifacts can help us better understand past lifeways within the Square and the larger Fredericton Military Compound National Historic Site in downtown Fredericton, New Brunswick.

01:40 PM: Working Together: Cultural resource management and municipal dam safety classification
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Kate Peach - Stantec Consulting Ltd.
  • Reza Ghavasieh - Stantec Consulting Ltd.
  • Lucy Philip - Stantec Consulting Ltd.
  • Laureen  Bryant - City of Calgary
  • Narayan Pokhrel - City of Calgary

Driven by global, national, and provincial guidelines, dams are classified relative to consequences of possible failure.  The process includes consideration of loss of life, infrastructure, environmental and cultural values. Despite the requirement to include cultural values, there is a lack of guidance as to how to do so. As a result, the determination of the consequences of dam failure is undertaken by hydrotechnical engineers with a greater focus on loss of life than on impacts to cultural resources.


In 2022, the City of Calgary and Stantec developed an innovative approach to incorporate consideration of cultural values into dam failure classification. Hydraulic modelling provided an indication of flood severity and the associated likelihood of soil erosion in the event of a dam breach. Evaluation of cultural resources considered site attributes, ‘significance’, and archaeological site potential within the modelled flood extents. The consequence classification for each dam relative to cultural values was incorporated into the overall consequence classification, affecting the extent of ongoing dam regulation and management.


This case study highlights the benefits of working with a multi-disciplinary team, through collaboration between Stantec’s cultural resource management, hydrotechnical and geotechnical engineering and the City’s Infrastructure, Heritage Planning and Parks and Open Spaces teams.

02:00 PM: Archaeology during Parliament's Rehabilitation
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Stephen Jarrett - WSP Canada Inc.

As part of the Centre Block Rehabilitation Project, the largest heritage rehabilitation project in Canadian history, archaeological assessments were conducted to evaluate and preserve important archaeological resources to be impacted by the project. The setting of Canada’s Parliament Hill created unique challenges. Concerns such as Parliament’s ongoing functions, emergency services access, critical infrastructure and construction schedules needed to be counterbalanced by requirements to evaluate and record resources which were buried under up to 3m of fill. This paper will outline the steps taken to manage the project and complete the archaeological assessments in a staged approach which allowed for the complex site requirements to be met while also uncovering and excavating extensive archaeological resources. A broad overview of the findings will also be interwoven with the presentation to provide context to the challenges encountered and overcome during the project.

02:20 PM: Tasting the Past: Living History, Food and Authenticity at Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, ON
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Christine Cluney - McMaster University

Living history museums have become a popular component of tourist and leisure experiences; an attempt to simulate life in another time.  These museums may also be used as research and interpretive tools, as a means of role playing, or a medium for better understanding another time or culture. Dundurn Castle is a neoclassical Italian style mansion in Hamilton, ON completed in 1835. Built for Sir Allan Napier MacNab, later Prime Minister of the united Province of Canada between 1854 and 1856, it was known across the country for its grandeur and parties. Today, the “Castle” is a National Historic Site, which, along with tours of the house and adjacent buildings, has a large garden at the eastern edge of the grounds. The produce from this garden is cultivated and used in the castle’s kitchen and is shared with the public in unique and different ways. Touring the grounds in both the Spring and Winter, I use Dundurn to discuss how the integration of history, archaeology, heritage foods, and modern uses have come together to benefit visitors to the site, as well as local Hamiltonians.

02:40 PM: From Strandlines to Beach Ridges: Using Geospatial Data to Unravel Past Land Use in Thunder Bay
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Jade Ross - City of Thunder Bay; Lakehead University
  • Clarence Surette - Lakehead Univeristy
  • Scott Hamilton - Lakehead University

Over the past year and a half, the primary author has worked on a Fed-Nor funded archaeological internship in a partnership between the City of Thunder Bay, Fort William First Nation, and Lakehead University. The project's purpose is to examine the archaeological sites within the City of Thunder Bay, which involved updating the archaeological inventory and confirming the accuracy of reported site locations within the Ministry heritage inventory. To accomplish this, access to high-quality geospatial data, including a LiDAR elevation model was provided by the city. The examination of data relative to known archaeological site distribution revealed relict riparian features such as stranded beach ridges, terraces, and wave-cut cliffs, some of which were previously undetected. While the relationship of Plano archaeological sites with one well-documented phase of Glacial Lake Minong is well-established, the sharply improved elevation model, coupled with other thematic information, significantly improved our understanding of the complex and dynamic shoreline transformation. It has also offered new insight into the distribution of known archaeological sites.  

03:00 PM: Under the Ground We Walk On: Urban Archaeology in the National Capital Region
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Monica Maika - National Capital Commission

The NCC is uniquely positioned in Canada as a Federal Crown Corporation that oversees 11% of the land mass in the National Capital Region. Approximately 4.3% of the lands within Ontario and Quebec that are managed by the NCC are considered to be ‘urban’. Although there is no Federal Legislation governing archaeology in the country, the NCC still has a custodial responsibility to ensure the protection and management of archaeological sites within lands under its jurisdiction. This presentation will briefly discuss the process by which sites have been identified in these urban lands. Challenges and achievements will be highlighted through a discussion of discoveries in urban environments such as Major’s Hill Park, LeBreton Flats, Victoria Island, and Westboro Beach. In a landscape where urban lands are all too often deemed ‘disturbed: no further potential’, it's time to bring these hidden sites to light.   

03:20 PM: Archaeology in the City of Kamloops: Answering a Call to Action
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Nicole Nicholls - City of Kamloops

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action have provided all levels of government with a starting point for local reconciliation journeys. The City of Kamloops and our partner community Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc have been engaged in relationship building since the 1960s and the ways in which we have engaged with this journey have evolved over time. Our relationship is based on respect, mutual support, and mutual interest.

Our journey with the Calls to Action has propelled us forward together in many ways, including the stewardship of cultural heritage. This presentation will discuss our journey with Call to Action 44 as it pertains to the stewardship of cultural heritage in the Secwepemcúlecw (the ancestral lands of the Secwépemc), including Indigenous-led work, innovation in methods, and collaborative solutions to challenges.

03:40 PM: Historic Hooves: Records and radiocarbon dates of horses (Equus) in Alberta in the late Holocene
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Karen Giering - Royal Alberta Museum

Records of horse are sparse in published archaeological records of Alberta, possibly reflecting their absence from the landscape following terminal Pleistocene extirpation and relatively recent reintroduction from Europe or elsewhere. Outside of late Pleistocene records of human-horse associations, few archaeological works comment directly on human-horse interactions in Alberta. Documented horse remains in the late Holocene archaeological record exist primarily in consultant reports, which are not widely accessible. Here, we re-evaluate those records and describe the skeletal record of horse from late Holocene archaeological sites along with additional records from palaeontological contexts. As part of that work, we report results from ZooMS analysis used to test morphological re-identification of a juvenile radius from the Castle River Site (DjPm-80) as Bison. We report new radiocarbon data on specimens of horse from both archaeological and palaeontological settings to further evaluate existing hypotheses that place the reintroduction of horses in Alberta at 1730–1740 AD. We also evaluate the landscape features and resources of sites with horse remains to see if they would be suitable for caring for horses and look for signs of human management on the remains. Authors: Christopher N. Jass, Christina I. Barrón-Ortiz, Karen Giering, Kris Fedyniak, Will Taylor, and Kyle Forsythe