Oxford Wessex Archaeology finds specialist Janice McLeish writes about a typical day processing finds on the East Kent Access Road excavations:
A typical day (if such a thing exists in the finds cabin) consists of arriving around 8am and weighing in the bulk finds and small finds that have been recovered on site the day before. Once retrieved from under tables, behind chairs, or on desks the job begins.
On every archaeological site each feature (such as a pit, ditch or posthole) is given a unique number and the layers in those features are also given a unique number so that any finds recovered from any layer of any feature can be isolated. The road scheme is divided into over 20 zones to keep it simple!
Every incoming bag, box, bucket of finds is checked to make sure all the relevant information is provided. The context numbers used on this site also contain a prefix number which relates to each individual archaeologist and we have the list of who’s who.
Once sorted the finds are weighed in and tagged with zone number, weight and date, this helps the finds supervisor Ellie keep track of how much material is arriving and being processed. The finds are then separated into bulk finds (general material) and small finds (especially interesting objects). The small finds would normally be given an additional number called an object number and separated depending on material type (generally metals and non-metals).
The next challenge is finding storage space for the new finds until they get washed. The processing – washing, drying and marking – is being helped along by our loyal volunteers who don’t mind washing rather a lot of burnt flint, which is an important, if repetitive part of the site archive!
Throughout the day we also do data entry, so every item that’s been processed including small finds has to be recorded and entered onto the site database. Its great when you get the chance to handle and record something that’s not been seen or touched for thousands of years, this happy glow helps you survive the darker moments of counting hundreds of marine oyster shells and whether they’re left or right valves and if they’re measurable or not (someone mistakenly thought I was recording if they were miserable or not).
No two days are the same in the finds cabin and this makes for a great working environment, and I am very appreciative to have been given the opportunity to see such diversity of material and have such a hands on role, so thanks Ellie for making me enjoy my job so much.
Time to go home now and personal highlight is getting through today without chipping my newly acquired ‘nail art’ (culmination of girly night out last night).
See you tomorrow