Our Find 1Noster invenire 1

During the summer of 2003 I was privileged enough to gain access to an area of a fort site that is not normally open to any site visitor. With the very kind permission of Curator, Alex Croome, and the aid of her staff I was offered the opportunity to spend two days at the fort where we could follow the story of a find made on site from its initial unearthing to its final resting place either in storage or on display. The piece concerned was that of a find in the Pretoria and is called BB1. What I learnt in those two days gave me a renewed respect (not that I needed it!) for the work that goes on behind the scenes where a dig takes place. It also showed just what goes into a dig and all the hard and slow work that the staff do to properly catalogue the items found. Slow because everything needs to be detailed exactly as it should be - carefully! I will always be grateful for the time afforded by Alex on those days and I felt I should detail what I did learn on these pages under the Excavation Process link. Those processes are still in use and will be for some time so although it was 2003 the details are as relevant now as then. I hope you enjoy reading this section of the site and maybe even learn something for yourself. Some of the texts can be used for educational purposes if required but please bear in mind any copyrights held and contact me before using any part of the site electronically or manually.

The photographs to the right show a piece of pot being found and then excavated on site at Arbeia. This particular piece of pot was found in plough soil near the Commanding Officer’s House. At this stage of the find being made it is possible to tell what type of material it is if not completely covered in soil. Careful scraping away of the surrounding soil with a trowel will expose more of the find and enable it to then be removed and placed into a context tray already waiting.

The piece is now removed and identified as BB1 (Black-Burnished Ware type 1) based on pots made in the Dorset area using a specific kind of kiln and is quite common. From here the pot is placed into its context tray ready for the next process which is cleaning. The three young ladies you see to the left are from the USA (Illinois, California and Chicago) and were based at Arbeia during a two week working holiday through EarthWatch. Their particular tasks over the two weeks would have been quite varied and interesting enough to learn quite a bit about archaeology. Speaking to them personally it was said that some jobs are a tad arduous but need doing if we are all to learn more about the subject of archaeology and they would have been digging, cleaning, sorting and marking finds as part of their on-site experience. However, they enjoyed the time they had spent thus far at Arbeia and looked forward to continuing their part in helping us understand the site.

Once the piece of pot is removed from the site with other finds it is ready for the next stage of its journey, cleaning. This is done in this instance with a fine toothbrush to save from any damage being done to the pot. This process has to be done with care and must continue until finished. A second find cannot be started to be cleaned by the same person because the first can begin to dry out and more water added later could damage the find by making it brittle. Once thoroughly cleaned the find is then put away for two weeks to thoroughly dry out. It can take this long for this type of find to completely dry because of the composition of it. The inside of the material has to dry thoroughly as well as being surface dry and this is extremely important. Once the pot has dried out completely it goes to its next stage which is the process of marking the find.