PROTECTING ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SITES AND ARTIFACTS
Things you should knowIt is against the law in Nova Scotia to dig artifacts without a permit. You must have a Heritage Research Permit before disturbing any place where things such as stone tools, pottery shards or other artifacts are found.
This protection for Nova Scotia's heritage resources is part of the
Places Protection Act originally passed in 1980. The Act covers historical,
archaeological and palaeontological sites and remains, including those
Why should we protect sites and artifacts?If time-travel were easy as hopping on a bus, wouldn't you buy a ticket to the past? We don't have time-machines, but we do have artifacts. Artifacts let us reach back into time for real clues to the mysteries of ancient worlds and people.
What stories a stone arrowhead can tell! Feel its edge, still sharp after centuries in the earth, and imagine the skill of an ancient craftsman using only stone and bone for tools. A geologist notices that it is made of a kind of rock found thousands of miles from here, and wonders how it came to Nova Scotia. A chemist analyses invisible traces of blood and discovers the hunter's prey was caribou, an animal now gone from Nova Scotia. Another scientist measures the arrowhead's age - perhaps 10,000 years old, from the time the great Ice Age finally ended and forests returned to this land.
One of the first specimens ever given to the Museum is a big fossil Mastodon bone, 30,000 years old. It was donated in 1835, and several million museum visitors have marvelled at it. In our time, this fossil bone has caused new excitement. An archaeologist noticed little gouges that might have been made by stone tools during butchering.
Is this fossil bone really a clue to Nova Scotia's first people, or
were the gouges just made by the blade of a pioneer's plow? Only the fossil
itself and the scientist's instruments can give us the answer.
Why not finders-keepers?Personal collections of artifacts are often well cared for and bring much pleasure to the finder's family and friends, but they are usually not available to other people for study or enjoyment. Arrowheads in a desk drawer can't tell their story to a researcher or excite the curiosity of a child. Preserving, studying and interpreting artifacts is one of the responsibilities of the Nova Scotia Museum. The Museum serves the people of Nova Scotia; with your help Museum staff can look after these important pieces of our heritage and keep them available for all of us and for future generations.
Like the big Mastodon bone, many artifacts have been cared for in museums
for more than a century. Every year, thousands of people see and enjoy
them. Where will your personal collection of artifacts be 100 years from
Why shouldn't I dig things up myself and give them to the Museum?Once a site is disturbed by digging, it can't be put back together. The position of an artifact in a site tells a critical part of the object's story. Archaeologists need to know whether one thing was above or below another, whether two items were found side-by-side. A professional "dig" involves several people working with tools as small as spoons and paintbrushes, carefully excavating bits of objects. The whole site is mapped with a grid of lines, and the precise location of each object is recorded. There's only one chance to record this vital information. When the first shovelful of dirt is scattered, that chance is gone.
What should I do if I find an artifact?
If you find an artifact (stone tool, piece of pottery, etc.):
Who can get a Heritage Research Permit and do an excavation?Anyone who has a plan for an organized investigation of an archaeological site may apply for a permit. More information on Special Places Protection can be found on the Tourism, Culture and Heritage Website. Heritage Research Permits are issued under the authority of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.
Your help is important!Remember, it is against the law in Nova Scotia to disturb an archaeological or historical site without a permit.
You can help protect Nova Scotia's heritage resources. Spread the word about the importance of artifacts. Report your finds to the Nova Scotia Museum and join the international research effort to discover the secrets of the past. Share your discoveries with others who would like to study and enjoy them.
Your efforts, joined with the work of many other Nova Scotians through
the provincial Museum, will go a long way to ensuring that Nova Scotia's
heritage resources will still be here for our grandchildren's grandchildren
This is a brief description of one part of the Special Places Protection Act administered by the Heritage Division. For details or legal questions, consult the Act in Chapter 438 of the Revised Statutes of Nova Scotia 1989 as amended by 1990, c.45; 1994-95, c.17.
Under the Special Places Protection Act of Nova Scotia Legislature (1989),
designated sites are protected by law. In addition, no one may carry out
any activities that may disturb cultural artifacts without a valid Heritage
For more information on administration of the Special Places Protection Act, contact::