Avebury Dig – what happens to the finds?

Finds are coming up thick and fast on the dig.

Our first find of Peterborough Ware (middle Neolithic) pottery from earlier in the dig

Our first find of Peterborough Ware (middle Neolithic) pottery from earlier in the dig

So what happens to finds after we’ve found them?

Well their position is recorded (we’re digging in 1m squares at the moment to make sure we know exactly where everything comes from). Just about everything (including finds) that stands still on a dig is given a number and its location recorded so that we and future researchers  can ‘virtually’ piece together the excavation once its over. At the end we’ll know which layer, pit or posthole (we call all of these features or contexts) every individual piece of pottery or stone tool came from.

What happens then?

The next step is to make sure that the finds are cleaned. This is trickier than it sounds with prehistoric material as things like Neolithic pottery have to be carefully handled to ensure they stay in one piece and no information is lost.

Later in the dig members of the team will be processing our Finds in the Farmyard (next to the Barn Gallery of Avebury Museum) so you can come and see exactly how its done in our temporary ‘Finds Hut.’

A Neolithic stone awl found in Trench 3. It was used for piercing leather or woodworking.

A Neolithic stone awl found in Trench 3. It was probably used for piercing leather or woodworking.

But what do we do with them once they’re cleaned?

We make sure they’re all given an individual number (archaeologists and curators of archaeogical museums are a curious blend – part librarian, part Indiana Jones). Then the finds will  go off for  analysis by specialists. Different experts will study the pottery, the stone tools, the animal bone and myriad other sorts of find that may crop up along the way. All of this is then fed into a final report detailing what we’ve found and what we think it all means.

And then what?

The whole archive from the excavations, the paper record, plans and drawings, digital records (for example data from topographic surveys and locational data), photographs and all of the finds will be placed in our Museum at Avebury.  They’ll be stored in the archive in humidistatically  controlled conditions. Here  the temperature is used to control the humidity to protect and help conserve the artefacts. Then they’ll be catalogued  – we call this accessioning . This ensures that when future researchers come to re-analyse and study the finds using the latest battery of scientific techniques we can find both the finds and all of the records that go with them.

Some of the artefacts may form part of  future displays and exhibitions in the Museum Galleries. They’ll all form a part of Avebury’s story that  we’ll be sharing with you in blogs, guidebooks, workshops and on walks and, no doubt, in ways that are yet to be invented.

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