A day in the life of a find processing archaeologist

The working day starts after a quick breakfast at 6:45 am. At first, we must put the finds from the previous day into the database and sort it into boxes in the depot or give it to the person who washes the pottery. One person starts drawing the diagnostic sherds and the ceramic special finds, while another is taking photos of the special finds and ceramic sherds that have already been drawn. The extraordinary finds like pearls, coins, and sealings are photographed by a professional photographer. After taking the photos, they must be named and sorted into the right find context folder. Just taking photos of the pieces is not enough, because small and important details are roughly visible on photos. Therefore, they must be drawn. Don’t be fooled if you think a pencil and eraser are enough to draw! There are a lot of tools that are needed to measure the size and define the shape of a ceramic sherd. You need a profile comb, a caliper, a special thin mechanical pencil, fine eraser pens, a triangle ruler, transparent papers, and a blog to align.

The next step is that the pottery specialist defines the pottery to determine what they have been used for, what they looked like and how old they are. Before they are photographed, the ceramic pieces are getting a single find number to make sure that everyone working with ceramics is able to identify and find every single piece that is important for dating the context. The single find number is therefore put in the database and written on the drawing.

After this step, the drawing is sorted into a folder under the right context number and the ceramic piece goes back into a box in the depot. The third person sorts the ceramic sherds that have been washed the day before. It is sorted into diagnostic and undiagnostic sherds, which basically means that the sherd must have a rim, a bottom or/ and ornamental decoration to be a diagnostic sherd. Nevertheless, the undiagnostic sherds are significant to date the context.

Therefore, they must be photographed and afterwards sorted into the depot. Every step must be recorded to make sure that one can find everything easily and even look up the amounts of finds from at home. The find processing deals also with other finds than ceramic like glass, metal, coins, architectural fragments, and inscriptions. There are different specialists from all over the world dealing with the different find categories.

Another important part of the find processing is the restoration team that restores the special finds and makes them more accessible for the different specialists. After all this steps, work ends at 4:30 to 5 pm.

Written by: Sophie Strauß und Katharina Heinrich

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