Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!

Andrew Clish built archaeological screens- Ontario archaeology fieldwork

Our carpenter extraordinaire and Senior Archaeologist Andrew Clish just built these gorgeous new screens for the fall field season. The extra tall screens are built to improve the ergonomic situation for our taller field techs.

David Robertson stage 1 historical map matched to the final site plan- Ontario archaeology

The first step of any archaeological work is the Stage 1 background study and property inspection. In this illustration, we layered the site plan from an urban Stage 4 excavation on top of the 1880 map that was found during the Stage 1 historical research. It fits perfectly!

Stage 2 let us dig in the beautiful woodlots- Ontario archaeology

Next, we move on to Stage 2, where an area that has potential is tested by a field survey. Here, a test pitting operation is underway in a beautiful woodlot.

Stage 2 test pit in a parkland Keith MacKinght industriously scrapes the bottom of a test pit

Test pits and survey can also be necessary in urban areas, like this parkland! Field tech Keith MacKnight is digging deep to clean the bottom profile of this test pit.

Stage 2 crew fit in a lunch at Niagara Falls Ontario archaeology

After that hard work a beautiful lunch spot is well deserved! Field Director Robb Bhardwaj snapped this photo of his survey crew Keith Macknight, Tom Lally and Cat Machado enjoying the view at Niagara Falls.

Cultural Heritage work Tara Jenkins inspects a bridge by canoe for a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report

Our archaeologists aren’t the only ones enjoying some beautiful views! Cultural Heritage Specialist Tara Jenkins is documenting a bridge for a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report.

Cultural Heritage work Tara Jenkins inspects a bridge by canoe for a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report

What’s the best place to see a bridge? From a canoe of course! It’s how we do stuff up in Canada.

Gothic Cottage inspected by Laura Wickett for a Cultural Heritage Evaluation

Cultural Heritage Assistant Laura Wickett photographed this two-storey, red brick Gothic Revival style house built in 1872 during her cultural heritage fieldwork. The house is located close to a former Indigenous trail, which was used extensively for early travel and settlement in the Town of Pelham, Niagara Region.

Laura Wickett Cultural Heritage Work WAterloo Pioneer Tower Ontario

Annie Veilleux, Manager of our Cultural Heritage Division, snapped this photo of Laura as they climbed up the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower, a National Heritage site commemorating German heritage in Kitchener, Ontario. Kitchener was once known as Berlin, but the name was changed during World War One amid widespread anti-German sentiment. The tower was built in 1926 as a way to reaffirm the importance of German settlers in the area.

View from the Waterloo Pioneer Tower Cultural Heritage work in Ontario

From the top of the tower you get a beautiful view stretching to the Grand River!

Field Director Poorya Kashani sits in his Stage 3 unit

Back to our archaeological field crews! Once the Stage 2 has established that there is a site present, we use a Stage 3 to find out the extent and heritage value of a site. Field Director Poorya Kashani poses in his 1 metre test unit.

Once the Stage 3 has established the parameters of a site, we move onto Stage 4: Mitigation! Field Director Rachael Johnston is establishing the grid to begin excavation of a small Ancestral Huron-Wendat campsite in the Barrie area.

Stage 4 square excavation with First Nations monitor Jaaka Lajeunesse

Further along in that project, we can see several 1 metre squares have been opened up by our Environmental Assessment crew. Since this is a Huron-Wendat site we have First Nations monitor Jaaka Lajeunesse working with us,  he is helping with the screening in this photo.

Bruce Welsh instructs our field crew on excavating a stage 4 feature Ontario archaeology

We got some expert advice on this site from Senior Archaeologist Bruce Welsh, who we coaxed out of retirement to spend a few days in the field. Here, he is advising Rachael Johnston and Adam Barrett on excavating a feature.

Beautiful view at another stage 4 excavation- Ontario archaeology

That’s not the only Stage 4 we have currently underway, a large multi-component Indigenous site in Waterloo has been keeping us busy all summer. Not a bad view from the workplace!

Field Director Liz Matwey takes a break- Ontario archaeology

It’s a beautiful day today, so Field Director Liz Matwey enjoys a creamsicle break with her crew.

A monarch caterpillar crawls along field director Jes Lytle's hand

Our field crews get up close with nature on a daily basis! Our Field Director Rachael Johnston snapped this gorgeous picture of a monarch caterpillar exploring our Project Manager Jes Lytle’s hand.

Monarch butterflies on Allan Jones' field bag Ontario archaeology

There’s a lot of monarchs this year! These friendly butterflies are investigating our Field Director Allan Jones’ field bag.

A salamander is rescued from a Stage 4 unit- Ontario archaeology

This little salamander was also snapped by Allan Jones, after it was rescued from one of our units.

Tessa Lehmann screen of washed artifacts Ontario archaeology

After the artifacts leave the field they are brought to the lab where they are organized, washed and sorted. This beautiful screen of artifacts was photographed by Lab Tech Tessa Lehmann.

Washing a doll face in the lab- Ontario archaeology

New details always emerge during the washing process, like the soft blue eye on this doll photographed by our Lab Tech and Admin Assistant Hannah Brouwers.

Danielle Bella works on the ceramic analysis for a historical collection- Ontario archaeology

After the artifacts are washed and sorted, they are sent to our analysts who catalogue each one. Here, Danielle Bella is evaluating all the ceramics from a single historical unit.

Judy puppet is photographed for a report by Jamie Houston-Dixon- Ontario archaeology

After they are catalogued, our artifacts are passed on to our report writers, who do the final site analysis. Technical Writer Jamie Houston-Dickson took this report photo of a partial Judy puppet from the “Punch and Judy” show that originated in sixteenth century Italy, but became particularly popular in eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Britain.  The puppet show involved a lot of slapstick fight scenes, proof that violence in entertainment is not a new concept!

Our basement storage with boxes of artifacts- Ontario archaeology

And finally, when they have been fully analysed and reported on, collections get stored away. The boxes on the left are destined to be housed by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, as they were excavated as part of a highway expansion. Many of our collections do not have public institutions to take them in, one of the reasons we advocate so strongly for a central artifact repository for the City of Toronto.

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