Small FindsParvus invenio

Small finds on a site can be very interesting but must be kept separate from bulk finds because they can be very fragile and their location on site can tell us a lot about the context of the object and site itself. Other reasons for keeping them separate are that they may actually require specialist conservation and may also be used for dating purposes in which case they could well be vital.

This type of find will almost invariably need to be recorded in three dimensions (‘trigged in’) and handed in with a small find label. The small find book needs completion too so accurate records are kept of the piece. A site supervisor should be informed when a small find is made and before it is removed from its context. This is simply to take extra care of the find as it may be fragile. If it is a coin or metal object, for example, then these should never be cleaned on site as damage can be totally irreversible. The object should be passed to a conservator who will have the necessary experience to deal with such finds.

Typical small finds are:

  1. Coins
  2. Brooches
  3. Metal objects other than iron nails (see 8 below)
  4. Glass (other than modern)
  5. Objects with inscriptions or graffiti
  6. Worked objects like (though not butchered) bone
  7. Stamped or repaired pottery
  8. Iron nails (if evidence shows they are still in their original location - i.e. coffin or timber lined pit)

Small finds are the ones that have the potential to give more data to the museum staff and are of special interest particularly when it comes to dating purposes. Typical finds of this sort here are listed above as 1, 2, 5 and 7. These finds must not be removed from site without the supervisor being informed of their discovery as they may need specialist treatment and particular methods of recording beforehand. The location of the find is marked and the position recorded in the Small Finds book while on site. After recording etc the find is lifted and brought inside where it is placed in the Small Finds tray. In the Finds Department each piece is cleaned with extreme care and then placed into containers of the same category and must be placed along with any relevant protection such as gel or humidity indicator. This will help prevent the item decaying after exposure to the air. Each find is now recorded on the Small Find sheet and allocated a small find number which is then recorded in the on-site Small Finds book. Some finds can be sent for further analysis and & or conservation to the relevant experts and reports can be used in the preparation of the Site Report.