Effective management of post-excavation is as important as well implemented excavation processes to the overall success of the project. This is where we process artefacts and samples. Samples are discussed in another entry. An artefact can be defined as:
‘[T]he general term which applies to any object which has been made, or altered, by human agency’ - A Dictionary of Irish Archaeology, Laurence Flanagan.
During excavation, each student uses a finds tray (the same as a garden seed tray) for the collection of objects on site. A different tray is used for each feature being excavated. The tray on site is labelled with all the necessary information to identify where the contents have come from, including: excavation number, site name, feature number, date and initials. Once finds have been excavated and gathered in the finds try they need to be sorted, bagged and registered. All trays are dealt with in the site office. Here we sort through the finds tray to determine what to keep and register. This is where we differentiate which are artefacts and which are samples. Then we group the finds in the tray by type, i.e. all metals, ceramics, stone etc. We try to distinguish between different pottery types, keeping medieval and post-medieval separate where possible. Then we bag all like items from any given feature together, e.g. all medieval pottery from F301 on a given day will be bagged together. At IAFS we complete a bagged finds register on site. It comprises eight fields and its function is to assist in the general overview of the site and to provide basic information on certain features at a glance. It is also an important tracking system for the movement of materials and gives an indication of quantities for post-excavation processing.
Over the past number of years, we have been finding a large amount of stained glass fragments at Black Friary. These fragments are recorded in the ‘Stained Glass Register’. We keep all the glass that is found during excavation as it is important that notes on even the smallest fragments are recorded in the feature records (feature sheets and site notebooks).
We have also been finding considerable quantities of painted plaster, from the interior walls of the church and other buildings. Again we record all the contexts in which the plaster was found and retain only those pieces which are polychrome, that is where more than one colour, indicating a pattern, has been used. These fragments are registered in the painted plaster register.