1. Overview

Under the terms and conditions of every archaeological licence, an archaeologist must notify the ministry before starting any new fieldwork project or stage of archaeological assessment. To do this, the archaeologist must submit a Project Information Form (PIF) using Ontario’s Past Portal (PastPort).

PastPort is the ministry’s secure online archaeology portal. All licensed archaeologists need a PastPort account. For information about PastPort accounts, see our website.

Information for consultant archaeologists

Information about PIFs intended for archaeological consulting projects will be found formatted in this way throughout this document.

Please email archaeology@ontario.ca with any questions or concerns.

2. Project Information Forms

A PIF provides the ministry with information about archaeological projects being planned in Ontario.

The ministry uses the information on the PIF to:

  • ensure the archaeologist’s licence is in good standing when they start a new project
  • confirm that any field directors have an Applied Research or Professional licence in good standing
  • establish a deadline for the report (and any site forms) that document the project and inform the public record

2.1 Underwater fieldwork

A PIF is required only for fieldwork that will be carried out on land. If an archaeologist is planning underwater fieldwork, they will need a marine licence for the project. For information about marine licences, email the ministry at archaeology@ontario.ca.

2.2 PIF numbers

If the information on a PIF is complete, accurate and meets the licensing requirements above, the ministry will assign a tracking number (PIF number) to the project. An archaeologist must obtain a PIF number before beginning fieldwork. Carrying out fieldwork without a PIF number will affect the archaeologist’s record of licence compliance and their ability to renew their licence when it expires.

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists:

The PIF number must be used in all correspondence and reports relating to the project. (Section 7.1, Standard 4)

A PIF number only applies to the specific fieldwork activities, stages and archaeological sites described on the form. If an archaeologist wants to undertake additional activities or stages of assessment, or to work on a different site, they must submit a new PIF.

Once an archaeologist has filed a report under a PIF number, and the report has been entered into the Ontario Public Register of Archaeological Reports, no further fieldwork or reporting may be carried out under the same PIF number. The only exception is for a preliminary excavation report (PER). If an archaeologist has filed a PER, they must also file a final Stage 4 report under the same PIF number by the report filing deadline. This is the case no matter the outcome of the ministry’s review of the PER.

3. When to submit a PIF

An archaeologist must submit a PIF and receive a PIF number before starting any new fieldwork project or stage of archaeological assessment. This applies to all licensed archaeologists and types of projects (avocational, research or consulting).

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists:

A PIF must be filed with the ministry for each archaeological fieldwork project, and the PIF number must be received by the licensee before beginning the fieldwork. (Section 7.1, Standard 1)

An archaeologist must submit a PIF at least five days before they intend to begin fieldwork. This gives the ministry enough time to process the PIF and issue a PIF number before the work begins.

PastPort will prevent archaeologists from submitting a PIF more than 15 business days before the fieldwork start date. This helps to ensure that the PIF contains the most up-to-date information about the project. See Section 6 for how to make changes to a PIF after it has been submitted.

4. How to submit a PIF

Archaeologists must submit PIFs using PastPort. Step-by-step instructions can be found in PastPort’s Resource Centre.

Information for consultant archaeologists

Section 7 of the Standards and Guidelines lists the standards for completing and submitting a PIF to the ministry.

An archaeologist may need to submit several PIFs for the archaeological assessment of a single property. Depending on the circumstances of the project, a separate PIF may need to be submitted for:

  • each individual stage of archaeological assessment
  • different areas of the property (if these are being assessed at different times)

4.1 Combinations of activities allowed on a PIF

PastPort classifies archaeological projects and divides PIFs into two categories depending on the planned activities:

  • Avocational and Research Projects
  • Consulting Projects

All defined stages of archaeological assessment (Stage 1, Stage 2, etc.) are consulting projects. All consulting projects must follow the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists.

PastPort will only allow an archaeologist to submit a PIF for types of projects and fieldwork activities allowed under their licence.

4.1.1 Research projects

An archaeologist may submit a PIF for any combination of fieldwork activities listed under Avocational and Research Projects, so long as the activities are allowed under the terms and conditions of their licence.

4.1.2 Consulting projects

Only archaeologists who hold a professional class licence can select stages of archaeological assessment under Consulting Projects.

Only Stages 1 and 2 can be combined on a single PIF. Each Stage 3 and each Stage 4 requires its own PIF number. Stage 3 and Stage 4 PIFs can only be for work on a single archaeological site.

Information for consultant archaeologists

Fieldwork done in certain combinations of assessment stages can be reported together in reports. See the Archaeological Reports bulletin for details.

4.2 Maps and supporting documentation

To submit a PIF, an archaeologist must upload copies of the project area map and any additional supporting documents as attachments in PastPort. The ministry may request other supporting documentation on a case-by-case basis.

4.2.1 Maps

Every PIF requires a map showing the location of the property. Depending on the project, this could be either a:

  • subject area map: this map must clearly show the geographic location of the project area. The scale should be large enough so that the project area is clearly outlined
  • development map: for consulting projects, this is the proposed development plan

4.2.2 Permit

If a project involves a site designated under Section 52 of the Ontario Heritage Act and listed in Regulation 875 or 880, the archaeologist must obtain a separate permit to conduct any fieldwork on the site. Please email the ministry at archaeology@ontario.ca for information on obtaining a permit.

4.3 Borden numbers for work on archaeological sites

PastPort requires an archaeologist to enter the Borden number of any site they are working on when submitting a PIF. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Consulting Projects
    • Stage 3 — Site assessment
    • Stage 4 — Site avoidance and protection
    • Stage 4 — Site excavation
  • Avocational and Research Projects
    • Site condition inspection
    • Controlled surface pick-up
    • Test unit excavation
    • Site excavation

4.4 Site data searches

Research information from the Ontario Archaeological Sites Database is an important component of all archaeological projects, especially archaeological assessments consulting projects.

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists:

The background study must include research information from the most up-to-date listing of sites from the ministry’s archaeological sites database for a radius of 1 km around the property. (Section 1.1, Standard 1)

To help ensure an archaeologist has the information they need to fulfill this standard, PastPort requires a site data search when submitting a Stage 1 or Stage 1 and 2 PIF. A site data search will provide an up-to-date listing of sites on file with the ministry. An archaeologist may also want to repeat the site data search when requesting a Stage 3 or Stage 4 PIF to ensure they are aware of any newly discovered sites around the property.

The PastPort quick reference guide How to Search for Site Data has step-by-step instructions. Find it in PastPort’s Resource Centre.

4.4.1 Reports about previous fieldwork within 50 metres of the project area

An archaeologist can also use the results of a sites data search to find reports about previous archaeological fieldwork that documents sites within a radius of 50 metres around the project area.

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists:

The background study must include research information from the reports of previous archaeological fieldwork within a radius of 50m around the property. (Section 1.1, Standard 1)

The PastPort quick reference guide How to Search for Reports about previous fieldwork has step-by-step instructions. Find it in PastPort’s Resource Centre.

5. How the ministry processes PIF requests

5.1 Timelines for PIF processing

When an archaeologist submits a PIF, they will receive an automatic email from PastPort@ontario.ca to confirm that the system has received the request.

Within five business days, the archaeologist will receive one of the following:

  • an email providing the PIF number assigned to the project
  • an email requesting additional information
  • an email stating that the ministry is unable to process the PIF and explaining why

The reasons the ministry may not process a PIF include the following:

  • the PIF contains inaccurate or inconsistent information
  • the field director listed on the PIF is ineligible to undertake new fieldwork projects
  • there are likely to be conditions that affect visibility (for example, snow cover) at the time the project is scheduled to begin

5.1.1 Report and site form filing deadlines

If a PIF is processed and a PIF number assigned, the email will also include the deadline by which the archaeologist must file the report and any site forms for the project.

For more information about:

5.2 The planned project and fieldwork strategy

The ministry does not generally comment on the information provided on a PIF. The fact that the ministry has assigned a PIF number to a project does not in any way guarantee ministry support for the planned project or fieldwork strategy. For guidance on fieldwork strategies for archaeological assessment projects, see Section 8.

If an archaeologist is unsure whether their planned fieldwork will meet ministry requirements, including the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists, they should request ministry advice before or during fieldwork.

6. How to make changes to a PIF

Unexpected changes to a project may occur that could result in the information in the report not matching the information on the PIF.

6.1 Changes before fieldwork has begun

If changes to a project occur before fieldwork has begun, or if fieldwork is delayed, cancel the PIF number and submit a new PIF when the work is about to begin. See Section 7 for more information.

6.2 Changes after fieldwork has begun

If a change has occurred and fieldwork has already begun, please notify the ministry at archaeology@ontario.ca.

Such changes may include:

  • the location information or boundaries of the study area
  • the responsible licensee or field director
  • a change of proponent or the proponent’s contact information

The ministry will update the PIF with the new information provided and may request additional information.

Any changes to the stage of fieldwork will require the original PIF to be cancelled and a new PIF to be submitted.

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists

A licensee taking over responsibility for an ongoing project, either during a stage or between stages, must file a new PIF for the remainder of the project. (Section 7.1, Standard 3)

7. How to cancel a PIF number

A PIF number may be cancelled only if all of the following are true:

  • fieldwork has not yet begun
  • the archaeologist has not prepared an archaeological report, nor filed a report with the ministry
  • the archaeologist has not provided an archaeological report that makes recommendations to a development proponent

To cancel a PIF number, please email the ministry at archaeology@ontario.ca. The email must include the reason for the cancellation.

If any fieldwork has begun on the project, including a Stage 1 optional property inspection, the archaeologist must file a report to document all of the fieldwork that has taken place.

If an archaeologist requires a due date extension, they may submit a Request for Due Date Extension from the associated PIF’s Overview page in PastPort.

From the Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists

If no fieldwork is undertaken (for example, the project is cancelled or delayed) the licensee must notify the ministry in writing prior to the report filing deadline, or the ministry will consider the report to be overdue. (Section 7.1, Standard 7)

8. Requesting advice from the ministry

Before and during fieldwork, artifact analysis and report production, an archaeologist may consult the ministry for advice on whether a proposed method or approach to fieldwork is appropriate. Please email requests for advice to archaeology@ontario.ca.

When requesting advice, please provide as much information as possible, including:

  • the associated PIF number (if available)
  • status of work and findings to date
  • an up-to-date map of the most recent results
  • descriptions, photographs or images of fieldwork or fieldwork conditions
  • preferred next steps

Any advice provided by the ministry must only be considered valid to the degree that the information provided by the archaeologist is accurate. Any advice provided should be considered to apply only to the project in question and not as a precedent for other projects. Archaeologists must include a PDF copy of this advice they receive as supplementary documentation to their project report package.

The ministry will strive to provide a response to every request in a timely manner; however, response time may vary depending on the nature and complexity of the question.

8.1 Following previous report recommendations

The information in this section applies to archaeological assessment consulting projects.

When undertaking later stages of archaeological assessment, archaeologists must follow the recommendations in reports for earlier stages. For example, if an archaeologist plans to undertake a Stage 3 assessment for a project begun by a different archaeologist, they must follow the recommendations in the earlier Stage 2 report by the other archaeologist.

Exceptions include cases where:

  • the archaeologist intends to use an alternative fieldwork strategy that meets the Standards and Guidelines
  • the earlier recommendations do not meet the Standards and Guidelines (for example, the earlier report was prepared under the 1993 Archaeological Assessment Technical Guidelines). In these cases, the current stage of assessment must meet the Standards and Guidelines

To assist in handling such cases, an archaeologist can request advice from the ministry.