Primary record

This section covers finds recording during initial processing.

It is important to maintain the primary record and keep it updated throughout the course of a project, up to and including the point of archive compilation (eg if object type identifications change following appraisal or analysis).

Template spreadsheets for structuring your primary record are available for download in the sections below and on the toolkit's Downloads page.

Bulk finds record

A bulk finds record provides a quantified list of all the bulk material types collected from a contextual unit (eg an excavated context, spit, or a fieldwalking square) and is a basic starting point for managing the material assemblage.

The purpose of a bulk finds record is to support the management of the assemblage, including the allocation of resources, packing materials and storage space and the commissioning of specialists. It will also feed into any reconsideration of the project selection strategy and inform discussions with museums or repositories concerning archive compilation and transfer.

The bulk finds record should also note any finds that are uncollected or deselected:

It is important to record the fact that these items are no longer part of the finds assemblage because it will confuse the subsequent management of the assemblage and archive if the record shows that, for example, 63 fragments of brick were found in a context but only nine are still present.

Along with general project information, such as project identifiers (eg site code), a bulk finds record should include the following information:

  • Context identifier
  • Bulk sample identifier (where finds have been recovered from bulk samples of deposits)
  • Material ID code (if using these to order the record and/or boxes)
  • Material type (eg pipe clay; can be updated following specialist recording)
  • Object information, where known (eg tobacco pipe)
  • Weight (where appropriate; in grams)
  • Fragment count (where appropriate)
  • Any other relevant description
  • An indication that finds have been uncollected or deselected (quantified as appropriate)
  • Location information (eg box number; store/shelf location)
  • Identity of the recorder (amended whenever the record is updated)
  • Date the record was made (amended whenever the record is updated)

A bulk finds record template in spreadsheet form can be downloaded below, together with an example of a partially completed record. This can be modified for use in line with how people habitually record bulk finds, for instance to sort out material for different specialists.

For instance, the description field can be used to subdivide pottery fragments of different dates. The Material category is ‘ceramic’, the Material type is ‘pottery’, but over separate rows, the description could be ‘Romano-British’ or ‘post-medieval’.

Registered finds index

A registered finds index details every registered find, during processing and as soon as possible after collection, and records as much detail as possible in order to inform packaging and possible further work such as conservation or other specialist treatment.

It is not necessarily the same as a finds register, which is a running list of registered find identifiers, usually maintained on site, which shows the next available number in the sequence, ensuring new identifiers are properly allocated.

The purpose of a registered finds index is to identify each registered object and track it through the course of a project, from initial processing to archive. Compiling the index will also establish at an early stage what will be required in terms of additional resources such as packing materials (eg desiccants), a conservation strategy, storage requirements and specialist analysis. It will also provide an index to more detailed individual object records.

Along with general project information such as project identifiers, a registered finds index should include the following information, given as accurately as possible at the time of recording:

  • Registered find identifier; usually a unique number
  • Context identifier
  • Sample identifier (where finds have been recovered from bulk samples of deposits)
  • Material type (can be updated following specialist recording)
  • Object type (at least a simple name; can be updated following specialist recording)
  • Dimensions (where appropriate)
  • Weight (where appropriate)
  • Fragment count
  • Description
  • Name of the recorder (amended whenever the record is updated)
  • Date the record was made (amended whenever the record is updated)

Information to be added at a later stage includes

  • location information (eg box number, store location)
  • x-radiograph identifiers (usually made prior to assessment)
  • conservation identifier (where appropriate)

A registered finds index template in spreadsheet form can be downloaded below, together with an example of a partially completed record.

Finds from samples

Finds retrieved from bulk samples collected for flotation or sieving are usually tracked in relation to the sample they came from. They may be recorded in a separate system, and a sample identifier will therefore be part of the record, even if some of the material may be classed as bulk finds. Registered finds may also be found while sorting samples and should be treated in the usual way thereafter.

Materials recovered from bulk samples will usually be very small in size and often high in number. Weights may not therefore be significant and exact counts can be difficult, as with materials such as hammerscale or seeds. This applies even to materials more commonly identified with hand-excavated assemblages, such as pottery, which in samples can occur as numerous tiny fragments.

It may therefore be appropriate to record quantities as estimates, such as a count of >50, or a weight of <2g.

A soil sample finds record should include the following:

  • Sample identifier
  • Context identifier
  • Material type (can be updated following specialised recording)
  • Object information, where known
  • Weight (or approximate, where appropriate)
  • Fragment count (or approximate, where appropriate)
  • Any other relevant description
  • An indication that finds have been uncollected or deselected
  • Location information (eg box number, store/shelf location)
  • Identity of the recorder (to be amended whenever the record is updated)
  • Date the record was made (to be amended whenever the record is updated)