Finding artefacts 101

Hello to all followers !

After reading both Morgan and Sarah’s posts I’m sure you are very familiar in which area the vicus is at Vindolanda. I am part of the team which will be spending our first two weeks in the vicus. My team consists of fellow blogger Nick Tibollo, Helen Wakely, and Dolores Mateo (Both of whom are seasoned Vindolanda excavators). We are supervised by professors Greene and Meyer, as well as Vindolanda resident Lauren. My team is in another Severen period Barracks similar to Morgan’s area.

This picture perfectly shows the different context layers that my team has to dig through. The layer just below the wheelbarrows is where we worked today
This picture perfectly shows the different context layers that my team has to dig through. The layer just below the wheelbarrows is where we worked today

Director Andy Birely posting up before the days work begins
Director Andy Birely posting up before the days work begins
After the first two days of excavating my team has completed de-gravelling a 10 by 12ft section, and dug down into the second context layer by about 12cm. Over the first two days we found several exciting items which included: a near whole coarse wear pottery bowl (discovered by Nick), several large pieces of pottery, a distaff and spindle weight, and a bronze alloy spear/ballista tip with some wood even still in the end! (both found by yours truly), by the end of the day Dolores had unearthed the beginning of a beautiful flagstone floor!

The flagstone floor
The flagstone floor
20150609_125814

Today we just about finished up our second context layer, nearly unearthing the whole section of flagstone floor and making several more exciting finds!

Before I get to the artefacts found today, I thought I would explain what happens when we discover an artefact.

First we have to decide if the discovery is considered a “small find”or just a common artefact. This is decided by our supervisors, but, generally if the artefact is a fragment of pottery, a scrap of iron nail or bone, things that are very “common” to the site, it is placed in a general artefact bag specifically labeled to our site and context layer. Whereas a “small find” artefact is one of some significance such as the spear tip I found yesterday. Once it is deemed a “small find” we have to mark exactly where the artefact was found to ensure two things. 1) proper documentation and 2) for future reference to and comparison with other areas around Vindolanda.

To mark where the artefact was found we have to use the digital level. This machine first ‘zeros out’ to a designated point so we always know where the find was in relation to that point. Second you place a long measuring staff (now deemed the staff of recognition) where the artefact was found. This staff has a barcode running vertical so the level can read it and calculate exactly how far away the artefact is both in distance and height. Thirdly, you  look through the eye piece on the level and line it up with the staff. Finally, once you have it lined up you click the calculate button on the machine and it does all the work for us! Once we have our measurements we log it into a book for future reference. The artefact itself gets its own bag and is labeled accordingly.

Prof Meyer showing Nick and I how to use the digital level.
Prof Meyer showing Nick and I how to use the digital level. Note how Nick and I are twinning perfectly.

Myself using the digital level for my end of day discovery.
Myself using the digital level for my end of day discovery. (great legs)
Finally to the exciting part, what we found today….

After a very long morning of clearing away the surface down to the flagstone floor level and finding no significant artefacts we went to lunch with no finds. Then after lunch I made a very odd discovery: as I was sifting through the wheelbarrow looking for artefacts, I unearthed a very odd shaped tube. At first it looked too new to be an ancient artefact, but upon further inspection by Prof Meyer we found out it was a copper alloy edge to a shield! I quickly returned to the wheelbarrow and began carefully looking for more of the covering and to our surprise I found five more pieces!

The copper based covering “Good. Our first catch of the day”
Then we hit another dry spell of only finding broken pieces of brick, pottery, and tile.

Just as we were cleaning up for the day I noticed a very circular object in the ground, as I picked it up I knew I had discovered my first Roman Coin!

The coin I found at the end of the day
The coin I found at the end of the day
Tomorrow we will be finishing off our current context layer and will finally get the full picture of our flagstone floor!

Cheers,

Steve Neumann!

2 thoughts on “Finding artefacts 101

  1. Thanks Mr. Meyer, really appreciate it ! Stay tuned, we just started to reach the muddy context layer in the vicus so we should start pulling up some amazing finds shortly

  2. Having followed the exploits of the field school all four years, I can say without question that you guys are the best bloggers. Keep the doming! I wish you many exciting finds.
    Alex’s Dad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s