What to do when you find an artifact

by Ally Walsh

Pottery: Pottery sherds are the most common find at ancient Eleon, and there is a lot of it. Pottery is a great way of dating a site, so it should be handled with as much care now as it would have all those years ago when it was being made. The first thing to do when pottery is present in a trench is to try to not break it with your pick. Whether you don’t see it at all or you see it at the last moment when your pick is about to hit the ground, that sherd with one ancient break can turn into many more little pieces. Sometimes, if youre lucky, a sherd many be buried next to its other pieces, so it can be a good idea to search around the immediate area. After you remove it from the ground, put it in a bucket that has been tagged with the appropriate locus and lot number. After you leave the site, brush the sherds with water and a toothbrush to get the dirt off. They will later be sorted into fine, medium, and coarse wear.

Terra cotta: Terra cotta finds need to be handled with more care than a pottery sherd. When you see one in the ground, brush around it and carefully remove. Then search the immediate area to see if any other pieces are present. Once it is out of the ground, cover it and keep out of sunlight and water because any remaining paint will be destroyed. Wrap it in Tyvek and place in a container. Do not put in a plastic bag because the heat will cause it to sweat. The wonderful ladies on the conservation team will then conserve the artifact from being destroyed after being removed from its micro environment. The dirt will be carefully scrapped off and any breaks will be mended with an adhesive.

Roof tiles: Roof tiles are generally not kept, but the trench supervisor will make note of its appearance by either weighing or counting them according to locus. Some coarse wear can often be confused as roof tiles, so it is useful to double check if you are unsure.

Bone: If a significant amount of bone is present in an area, it is put in the separate bag from pottery according to it’s locus and lot number. It will then be washed in a similar fashion as pottery and then identified. Bone is a useful find because it gives insight into which animals were once present at the site.

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