Archaeology - Reporting a Find

December 14, 2023

Archaeology - Reporting a Find

What Have I Found?

Have you ever been enjoying the outdoors, stumbled upon something interesting, and wondered if you’d found something special? If you think you have found something with heritage value, staff at the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism, & Heritage (CCTH) would like to hear from you.

While a lot of the artifacts that make up the Nova Scotia Museum Archaeology Collection come from excavation projects conducted by professional archaeologists under a Heritage Research Permit, many important heritage objects are found by members of the public.

Many sharp-eyed members of the public have noticed intriguing pieces while exploring outside, strolling the beach, or working in the garden and then donated the artifacts to the Museum and the provincial archaeology collection. Their generosity and willingness to share these cultural objects with the wider community enriches our understanding of the story of Nova Scotia and Mi’kma’ki.

The Dorey Sword

The Dorey Sword is one example of a member of the public finding an important heritage object. A Mahone Bay community member contacted the Museum about an “iron sword” they found near La Have in Lunenburg County. Curatorial staff from the Museum met with them and recorded important details about the location of their discovery and they kindly donated this remarkable artifact. We asked a curator specializing in military artifacts to examine the find. He described the artifact as a hand-forged, double-edged short sword or large knife. It would have had a slab-style handle and possibly a cross guard. The blade likely dates to the late 18th or early 19th century and the period of privateering.

A person and person standing outsideDescription automatically generated

What Should I Do if I Find Something?

A person holding a stone.

Finding something you think may be an important part of history can be very exciting. You may be tempted to start digging in the area where you discovered the object. However, the heritage value of fossils and artifacts is often connected to the setting in which they are found. The artifact itself can tell us only part of the story. We need to see where in the ground, at what level, and within what context or setting, the artifact was discovered. This is how we develop meaning about the artifact and consider what may have been taking place around the artifact many years ago. Context is key!

Therefore, the best approach is to leave an object where it was found, unless there is a risk that leaving it would result in it getting damaged. Do not dig or further disturb the soil. Preservation and documentation are important to the story of the object so take lots of photos of the object and of the surrounding area. Write down a few notes about the location as well as anything else about the object or its surroundings you think might be significant.

A sandy beach with a pair of mittens on it.

How Do I Report What I’ve Found?

We encourage people to report any found objects that they think may be historically significant to staff at CCTH as soon as possible. That way, we can do research to assess the object and provide further guidance on what to do next.

You can report a find to Special Places via email at:

In your email, please include the following information:

  • your name
  • your contact phone number
  • when and where you found the object (if possible, provide GPS coordinates or ‘drop a pin’ using Google or Apple Maps on your smartphone and include the link in your email)
  • the approximate size of the object
  • a description of the object, including what it is made from (if you can tell)
  • photograph(s) of the object (provide a scale, if possible)

You may also report your find by calling (902) 424-6450. Please leave a detailed message that includes your name and phone number so that we can follow up with you.

Then What Happens?

We will contact you when we have reviewed the information you provided and will give you advice on what to do next. While we will try our best to accurately identify the object, please note, staff at CCTH do not assess the monetary value of found objects.

Have fun outside and keep an eye out!