Case study
Unlocking solutions that navigate the past as well as the future

Wood’s long history of partnering with clients to engineer innovative solutions for tomorrow includes our ability to assist them with unearthing and managing discoveries from the past. We have uncovered history that dates back centuries and, in some cases, even thousands of years.

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Project details
Project name:
Wide variety
Client name:
Hank McKelway
Principal Archaeologist
Barbara Slim
Associate Archaeologist & Ontario Archaeology Discipline Lead
John Mabbitt
Associate Director, Historic Environment
Key stats
The team:
Global team of 80, plus 100+ seasonal hires, incl. industry leaders in all aspects of archaeological & architectural field investigations, plus wide variety of specialist studies & artifact analyses
Offices across the United States, Canada, and in the United Kingdom
Experienced team:
20+ years partnering with government, commercial clients, drawing on experienced local footprint with wide geographical reach

Unearthing, discoveries from the past

At a worksite in Canada, where we were providing geotechnical expertise, materials testing, inspection, and hydrogeological consulting for a transportation roadway redevelopment and infrastructure project, we also had a team of 30 digging by hand. Our archaeologists were conducting a Stage 4 assessment, or full excavation of the site, triggered by our discovery, two years earlier, of 1,000 artifacts during a government-mandated evaluation of the area.

The power of partnerships

The discoveries were evidence of an Indigenous village, the majority of which had been preserved beneath an existing asphalt road. Due to the site’s significance – and potential for contributing to the history of Indigenous peoples in the region – hand excavation of the entire settlement was mandated. It is meticulous and time-consuming work that can potentially take years to complete, and Wood has the expertise to do it. In this specific case, we partnered with our client and Indigenous Nations to ensure all initial work was focused on an area that, when completed, would enable construction of a temporary public road before winter. Since archaeology is a seasonal discipline in Canada, excavations pause in winter and resume in spring. The temporary road would minimise traffic impacts to the community in the interim, while our archaeological team spent the colder months cataloguing and studying the artifacts found – to gain more insight on their history and the lifeways of these people hundreds of years ago.

Ancient discovery

Wood’s team – including bioarchaeologists, zooarchaeologists, lithic analysts, ceramic analysts, palaeobotanists, and two dozen field technicians – partnered with Indigenous Nations to unearth and identify tens of thousands of artifacts excavated from more than 800 1×1 metre squares of soil. The discoveries included: pottery, clay smoking pipes, chipped stone drills, arrowheads, darts, knives, blades, and scrapers; faunal bone from deer, beaver, turtle, and fish; plus, stone beads and bone jewelry. Most of the artifacts were associated with a Late Woodland Iroquoian village site, dating to AD 1350-1600. Also recovered were projectile points dating to the Late Archaic (1900-1500 BC).

Among several immovable features found at the site were refuse deposits and wooden posts used in traditional longhouse dwellings. Soil samples taken from remnants of fire pits even led to the discovery of 600-year-old carbonized corn and beans.

Following ongoing visits to the site and meeting with members of our team, a First Nations archaeology representative wrote to our team: “Wood must be very proud to have you representing them. I can’t thank you enough for showing me how ethical and professional you are. I walked away from our day knowing that our archaeological sites are well protected in your hands.”

Full range of expertise & solutions

Wood’s Cultural Heritage Resource Management team partners worldwide with clients and the appropriate government and regulatory agencies to provide a fully integrated approach for investigating, avoiding, or mitigating potential impacts to cultural resources.

Our North American team of nearly 70 full-time specialists, plus approximately 100 seasonal employees, provides a comprehensive range of archaeological management services, which contribute to studies required by relevant laws and regulations. These include: archaeological and architectural/built environment surveys; archaeological site and historic structure evaluations and documentation; archival research; consultation with Indigenous Nations in Canada and US federally-recognised Native American Tribes; geomorphology; geospatial remote sensing; faunal and human skeletal analysis; and, comprehensive analysis for historic and prehistoric artifacts.

Our cultural resources experts across the United States and Canada collaborate to provide government and commercial clients, alike, with the expertise, resources and advice they require for mandated permitting and regulatory approval of projects. This includes work for transportation, infrastructure, pipelines and highways, transmission corridors, mines, military installations, reservoirs, and private development.

Whether our clients need an archaeological predictive model for cultural resources along a multi-state parkway, or an archaeological survey and inventory of significant sites found across thousands of hectares of land, Wood has that in-house expertise. Our team even discovered two tiny seeds during an archaeological excavation, as part of work required by the US National Historic Preservation Act. Those seeds, carbon dated to 1,050-700 BC, are among the oldest evidence in North America of domesticated tobacco, which has a long and prominent role in Native American religious ceremonies.

Global reach

In the United Kingdom, statutory national and local policy frameworks are complex and stringent. Here, we advise various UK and local government organisations, plus infrastructure and housing developers, helping them through the necessary consent processes and environmental impact assessments (EIA). Our team also facilitates mitigation schemes through project delivery.

Wood has enabled some of the UK’s largest infrastructure developments, including airports, new-build nuclear power, electricity transmission and renewable energy developments, as well as redevelopment of former military and industrial sites. We also work across Europe, with recent projects in Ireland and Poland, and have completed key assignments in Africa and the Middle East.

Our team has also completed projects at several of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like Canterbury Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall, and The Lake District.

Archaeology and more

With thousands of geologists, engineers, biologists, environmental planners, and other specialists in archaeology, Wood’s depth and breadth of environmental and engineering solutions enables us to add value to an array of clients throughout the project development lifecycle.

Through our wide-ranging archaeological solutions, our teams also contribute to a better understanding of our collective past as a society and how we got to where we are today. The insight gained from cultural and historical artifacts and designs, ancient tools and dwellings, the things people valued and the foods they ate – is of great historical significance. It also connects our engineering projects of today with the captivating details of our shared history.

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