Well yesterday was #AveburyDig Day 11 and the team was out on site digging hard as they dodged the showers. But some of us were in the Farmyard next to the Barn Gallery of the Museum carrying out another essential part of the excavation process – cleaning finds.
Some finds such as flint can usually be cleaned with plain old fashioned tap water and a tooth brush applied in a suitably careful manner. Others like sherds of prehistoric pottery are set aside to be carefully cleaned at a later stage because one application of a toothbrush would spell disaster – they’re liable to fall apart!
Finds cleaning can reveal as many unexpected things as digging. Sometimes artefacts will have been dug up on site and recognised as important but its not until they’re cleaned that we’re able to see the full picture. This small piece of flint, for instance, was recognised on site as being a deliberately struck flake. But it was only when it was washed that we could fully appreciate that five thousand years ago someone had taken another flint and made tiny notches along its edge to create what we call a micro-denticulate (in other words it has tiny teeth). It was probably used for working wood, bone or antler.