Reporting and archive

An archaeologist with blue latex gloves completes finds recording forms at a desk.
Recording small finds using a paper register (image: Archaeological Projects Team, Historic England)

The fundamental purpose of the initial recording of archaeological materials is to inform future enquiries and research. That includes the appraisal and analysis undertaken during completion of the project.

Comprehensive guidance on finds reporting can be found in the CIfA Toolkit for Specialist Reporting and will not be repeated here.

One purpose of recording archaeological materials is to enable a report to be written, whether that is an appraisal report or the result of more detailed analysis.

Alongside interpretations of the significance of the finds, that report should present information that will lead other researchers to the original dataset. That is why it is important to create a record that is consistent, accessible and supported by comprehensive metadata.

The same principle applies to compiling assemblages for archive. A comprehensive, consistent record of each category assemblage will inform and facilitate the sorting, packing, boxing and ordering of the entire material assemblage and provide documentation that allows the retrieval of any object(s) from storage during the lifetime of the project. It will also enable the effective compilation of the project archive in advance of transfer to a repository.

The Materials Word List aims to promote a consistent approach to the classification of archaeological materials. Even if the list offered here is not adopted, it is important that personnel use the same terms throughout a project, so terminologies should be shared with all personnel and appropriate training provided.

A consistent record, supported by comprehensive metadata, will make the project archive much more accessible, with records and objects easily located through catalogues, indexes and box labels. The production of a secure, well-documented, accessible archive must be one of the prime aims of any archaeological project.