Definitions

Appraisal

Also known as assessment – the collection of information that will enable and inform further work. This will usually be based on a record of the character and quantity of the assemblage and consider its quality in relation to states of preservation, chronological coherency, site formation processes, types of objects present and interpretations of social and economic conditions.

Bulk finds

Those finds that are usually classed as formed of materials that are: inherently stable, requiring no special treatment in terms of handling, packing or storage; sufficiently robust for objects from the same context to be contained together; often occurring in relatively high numbers and not recorded as individual objects but in bulk, as a group (eg of sherds or fragments). Examples are pottery, brick and tile, slag, and animal bone.

Category assemblage

An assemblage consisting of all the finds that have been categorised together, by material or object type, as a meaningful group, usually for appropriate management, treatment or analysis by a specialist (eg animal bone, coins, tesserae or worked flint).

Collected finds

Finds collected during the data-gathering phase of an archaeological project and retained for appraisal and/or analysis.

Composite object

An object composed of more than one material type (eg an iron knife with a bone handle).

Context

A single unit recorded as a distinct entity in the field; here especially, a defined finds-producing unit such as a grid square, spit, fill, layer, or other deposit.

Deselected finds

Finds not selected for inclusion in the archaeological archive compiled for long-term curation.

Finds

A term applied to all artefacts, building materials, industrial residues, environmental material, biological remains (including human remains) and decay products (as defined in the CIfA Standard and guidance for the collection, documentation, conservation and research of archaeological materials, 2014 (PDF)).

Finds assemblage

All the finds recovered and recorded during an archaeological project.

Finds from samples

Finds derived from the sieving or flotation of bulk soil samples collected from deposits with the intention of recovering finds not usually observed during hand-digging.

Finds processing

The procedure of appropriately sorting, cleaning, marking/labelling, recording, packing and boxing finds following their on-site collection and usually prior to appraisal.

Finds specialist

An individual who is competent in, and specialises in, collecting, recording, analysing, interpreting and reporting on specific materials, objects or scientific data. A specialist will have developed expertise through the extensive study of their particular field, working to accepted standards of practice and ethics, and reporting in reputable peer-reviewed sources. They should also be accredited in line with any recognition schemes in place for their field of expertise. Membership of a study group or special interest group is a valuable way of acquiring and sharing knowledge and is also recommended.

Material type

The substance from which an object is formed (eg bone, glass, iron). A consistent material type terminology is important in successfully cataloguing finds for future access to collected data. See Materials word list .

Object

The term given here to any material item recovered during the course of an archaeological project, including artefacts, waste materials and the remains of animals and plants; eg an animal bone, a sherd of pottery, a coin, a piece of slag, a fragment of charcoal, a seed.

Plotted finds

Plotted finds (potentially a subgroup of registered finds) are given numbers because of their spatial significance (eg within a surface scatter) rather than their intrinsic characteristics. Numbers are determined during recovery rather than in subsequent processing and they may not subsequently have special packaging or storage requirements.

Registered finds

Also known as small finds. Objects that meet any or all of these criteria:

  • they are recorded individually with a unique registration identifier;
  • they are singled out because of their significance, or specific features or characteristics;
  • they are often recorded in detail (eg their specific dimensions);
  • they require special treatment, including conservation and/or individual protective packaging;
  • they require specific storage environments (eg because they are subject to decay or disintegration; for instance, most metals, especially iron require low humidity).

Common examples of registered finds are objects made of metal, textile, wood or worked bone.

Selected finds

Finds retained for inclusion in the project archive.

Uncollected finds

Those finds not collected during the data-gathering phase of an archaeological project, eg as a result of selection in the field. For guidance on recording uncollected finds, see the CIfA Toolkit for Selecting Archaeological Archives.