Spotlight on Post-Excavation: Where Do All The Finds Go?

As the final week of the annual Dig Berkeley project draws to a close, it is high time we turned our attention away from the trench and to the post-excavation team. Stationed at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology back in Bristol, these students have been working tirelessly over the last couple of weeks carefully looking after the finds sent back to them from Berkeley this year. Student post-excavation supervisors Bethany Holland and Dan Brown explain that the work they and their team are doing in post-ex is vital to the Dig Berkeley project as it widens our understanding of what we are actually looking at and digging up in Trench 8. He says that despite the lack of mud, the post-ex team work just as hard as those in the trench and are faced with new challenges everyday.

Washed animal bone finds.
Each day the post-ex team have been faced with new finds to wash, analyse, and catalogue, fresh from Trench 8. Armed with buckets of water and a selection of toothbrushes, picks, and tweezers, students have washed a range of artefacts such as animal bones, pottery, and fragments of clay pipe. Once the clean finds have dried, students have then started to further analyse the finds by categorising them into bags. Students have clearly labelled these bags and designated unique numbers to them so that they are easily identifiable. All of this data has then been uploaded onto the digital bulk finds register.

Horn find correctly bagged and labelled.
Another task for the post-ex team has been wet-sieving environmental samples and in doing so collecting essential finds that may have been missed on site. This material has then be left to dry, before commencing residue sorting to ensure absolutely all archaeological material is extracted from these samples. This process requires close attention in order to distinguish between different finds which include small fragments of building material and shell, mixed amongst the rubble. Students have been weighing both unsorted finds and pre-bagged individual sorted finds and rubble, recording this data in both paper and digital form.

Environmental sample ready for residue sorting.
This year, students have continued the ongoing project to digitise all of our Dig Berkeley data and records into a cohesive database. This means that we are able to locate any find with a few clicks of a button. As part of this effort, the post-ex team have been busy organising not just 2018 data but also data from previous years. This has included scanning photographs and site illustrations and cataloguing skeleton records and context sheets to suit the new online format. By digitising records, recording new finds and samples, and collating existing databases, the project aims to make all 14 years of data from Dig Berkeley more accessible and easier to navigate. Meanwhile, in the basement, students have continued to re-organising all Berkeley finds to ensure that everything is in it's rightful place and correctly labelled.

Post-ex students working on databases.
The hard work from the post-ex team at the department has meant that every day the archaeology arriving from Berkeley is clean, sorted and ready for further research.