A Day in the Life with TRCA Archaeology

The Archaeology Team at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is excited to participate in our first Day of Archaeology and share our unique experiences in the daily life of an archaeologist at the TRCA! The TRCA is currently the only Conservation Authority in Ontario to have its own in-house archaeology team, where we provide archaeological assessment services to all of the other business units at the TRCA. We hold an important duty as cultural heritage stewards to ensure that all cultural heritage resources, which includes built heritage, cultural heritage landscapes and archaeological resources, throughout our watersheds’ urban and rural landscapes are being responsibly managed and protected.  Our focus on preservation and avoidance of cultural heritage resources encourages the sustainability of local heritage and maintains past, present and future human connections to the land.

Our days start at the office, the beautiful Swan Lake Outdoor Education Centre and Centre for Innovation in Conservation, which we share with the Outdoor Educators from the York District School Board. Check out that view!

Our field crew will then set out to various parts of the GTA to conduct Stage 2 archaeological assessments for projects like erosion and restoration works or trail and park installations. These projects take us into great urban green spaces like the Don or Humber River Valleys, where it is very easy to forget that you are still in the middle of the City of Toronto and not up north in cottage country.

When we’re not out surveying in the field, our staff are busy processing all of the collected data and recovered artifacts, and maintaining field equipment.

Our Equipment Manager always makes sure we are never unprepared for our surveys and keeps the equipment in tip top shape!

The Geomatics team creates all of our mapping and figures, maintains our GIS database which records all of the projects we have done, and most especially, maintains the archaeological sites data within the TRCA’s jurisdiction.

We are very lucky to have many talented staff with their own specializations, who analyze and catalog each artifact that goes into our collections database.

Sometimes we need some more intensive background research, which means a trip to the Archives of Ontario or a local municipal archive! Here, our research specialist views all sorts of interesting data, such as geneology, census records, historic maps and photographs, and other information related to the past land use and owners of a property.

Our Report Writers then take all of these different components and bring them together to disseminate a clear narrative of our findings. The information must be compiled into a formal report for documentation and filing with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, who ensures that all of the provincial archaeological licensing requirements have been fulfilled.

During lunch breaks at the office, some of our staff staff volunteer their time to work on our “Historic Garden Project”, a new staff initiative/experiment implemented this year where we put our green thumbs to the test! We are trying to grow the same kind crops that the earliest inhabitants of what is now the GTA once cultivated, such as the “Three Sisters” consisting of corn, beans and squash by early Indigenous groups, and imported crops such as radishes and turnips that were brought over by European settlers when they began to immigrate to the GTA in the 1800s.

In addition to cultural resource management, we also run the Boyd Archaeological Field School, the only credited archaeological field school for high school students in Canada, as well as engage local communities during public outreach events, where we try to connect people to their local environment and the past. This year, the field school is running during the Day of Archaeology! As a bonus, you can read about what a Day in the Life at the Boyd Archaeological Field School is like here!

Want to see even more TRCA Archaeology? Visit our website and Like the TRCA Archaeology Facebook page and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see what we’re up to all year long!