British Museum

Perks of being a PAS volunteer

My career as an archaeologist has been somewhat intermittent: I currently work as an archaeologist only one day a week and purely for the love of it. I’m a volunteer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at Liverpool museum with the Finds Liaison officer there, Vanessa Oakden. I’m the Thursday girl, and usually help out by digitally manipulating images of the finds (mainly bought in by metal detectorists) on photoshop, so they can be included on the PAS database. With over one million objects and counting, this is an eclectic, fascinating and ever expanding corpus of the ‘what on earth is it?’ and workaday; the lost and discarded; the plough trashed and serendipitously preserved, see https://finds.org.uk/database

My Day of Archaeology was a special day – a training session with behind the scenes access- including tours and talks – at the British Museum. An early start in Chester, and three hours later I am trying to look nonchalant negotiating the London Underground, like I do this everyday, and am not a tourist: an impression I failed to sustain as I got a bit confused and failed to fast track myself through the excited queues outside the museum, with the result I was only just in time to find the meeting room, get my volunteer badge and a warm welcome off Claire, the resources officer, before the programme began. (more…)

Archives and a whole lot more!

As the Archives Officer for Cotswold Archaeology, one of the UKs largest commercial units, my job does involve working with our site archives, but today like most days is much more varied.

I’ve been in this role for just over a year. I started my career as a trainee archaeologist and worked in the field for 9 years, becoming a supervisor and then a site manager. I made the move into this position as it offered such a variety of tasks and required a background in fieldwork and report writing as well as archives experience. I manage our team of post-excavation supervisors and processing staff, so even though I sometimes miss being on site I still get to see the finds as they come back to the office. I’m usually working on such a variety of different projects that there is always something interesting going on.

Today I’ve got some arrangements to make with several museums over depositing some of our archives, most are just a box or two, but we are hoping to deposit a large infrastructure project of 170 boxes soon! There are also some smaller jobs that I can deal with quickly like issuing site codes to our field staff.

I’m the co-ordinator of our volunteer programme and overnight we’ve had a few enquiries from members of the public who want to know what sort of work we do and are interested in joining us. The people who volunteer their time with us do an amazing job and help us make sure that some of the finds from historic projects which would otherwise sit on our shelves actually make it to the local museums where they can be displayed. We’ve got a work experience student in with us next week so later on I’ll be talking to colleagues in some of our other departments and organising a series of talks and workshops so they can get a taster of as many different aspects of what we do here at Cotswold, as possible.

I’ve got some costings to review and need to place several orders for more supplies for the post-excavation team, not my favourite part of the job but a very important one.

I’ll also be working on some of our annual fieldwork summaries to be included in several regional journals and providing time and cost estimates to project managers for processing and archiving work.

Finally, I’ll be helping out on our stall at a Festival of Archaeology event in Bristol tomorrow (http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/events/2780) so I’m running through my checklist and making sure there won’t be any last minute hiccups (well other than the rain that is!).

 

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research

The work of Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 5. Conservator Denise Ling replaces the (not original) dowel that joints the moveable arms of an early 1st century terracotta Oriental Aphrodite from Turkey (1893,0915.7). The figurine has a magnificent hair style and remains of gilding and several colours of paint, but the focus is on her massive platform shoes. She is part of the travelling exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.

The work of Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 5. Conservator Denise Ling replaces the (not original) dowel that joints the moveable arms of an early 1st century terracotta Oriental Aphrodite from Turkey (1893,0915.7). The figurine has a magnificent hair style and remains of gilding and several colours of paint, but the focus is on her massive platform shoes. She is part of the travelling exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.


The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museu

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section at the British Museum 1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930.

1. Wrong footed! Working on a New Kingdom wine jar (1930,0614.22) for an international loan, conservator Sarahi Naidorf finds that over painting has been used to tone in a base fragment from another jar. The jar was bought at auction in 1930

 

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals conservation section at the British Museum 2. Conservator Loretta Hogan works on a black-figure amphora (1847,0806.26) bought by the museum in 1847. The very old reconstruction has too much paint and plaster spread over the original ceramic.


The Work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 4. Stefka Bargazova paints the fill of a 14th century floor tile from Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire (1947,0505.4390). The tile is part of the BM collection being moved to updated storage.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 4. Stefka Bargazova paints the fill of a 14th century floor tile from Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire (1947,0505.4390). The tile is part of the BM collection being moved to updated storage.

The work of Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 5. Conservator Duygu Camurcuoglu smooths the fill of a Romano-British pot from Stonea Grange (1985,0201.1190). The pot is part of the travelling exhibition Rome: City and Empire.

The work of Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 5. Conservator Duygu Camurcuoglu smooths the fill of a Romano-British pot from Stonea Grange (1985,0201.1190). The pot is part of the travelling exhibition Rome: City and Empire.


The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 3. Every Wednesday every metals conservator in the museum should work on coins going through the Treasure process. So far this year we have cleaned about 9000 coins. maickel van Bellegem is cleaning a Constantine period coin from a block lifted hoard.  The soil block is being excavated as an indoors mini-dig.

The work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals conservators at the British Museum 3. Every Wednesday every metals conservator in the museum should work on coins going through the Treasure process. So far this year we have cleaned about 9000 coins. Maickel van Bellegem is cleaning a Constantine period coin from a block lifted hoard. The soil block is being excavated as an indoors mini-dig.


Pots and stats! Moments in a day of a post-doctoral researcher

This is my first blog post for the ‘Day of Archaeology’.

I am going to write about some aspects of the research project which I have been working on for most of the last two years, at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, UK.

The focus of my research is the later Egyptian Prehistory, also known as the ‘Predynastic’, a period which covers approximately a millennium (the IV millennium BC) and during which the most fundamental features that characterise the ancient Egyptian civilisation developed: sophisticated funerary rituals, monumental architecture, craft specialisation, the first forms of administrative practices and economic centralisation.

Some areas which I have been trying to investigate through my ongoing research are:

  • chronological and functional variability of settlements;
  • how the process of state formation influenced the life of the inhabitants of the Nile Valley (i.e. how it is reflected in the material culture of settlements, rather than how this process affected the mortuary realm);
  • dynamics of interaction between different cultural spheres extant in Egypt at this early stage.

The archaeological data which I have been using in my research especially concerns pottery and has been collected by me over the course of several study seasons I spent in Egypt in the past and in recent years.

Hk, Egypt / 2013 season: sorting pottery…

Some pottery collections held at the Petrie Museum and the British Museum in London, as well as unpublished archival records and published reports, pertaining to pottery which is not available for visual inspection and analysis, have provided further valuable data.

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Potsherd analysis forms archive

Re-use of data produced by other researchers and the integration with data collected by myself, though necessary for having a base of data as large as possible, has been quite challenging at many points, because of the different terminological conventions and multiplicity of systems employed for the classification and recording of the Predynastic ceramic material. Thus, initially part of my work has consisted in tracking correspondences (or lack thereof) amongst terms and codes used in different systems for indicating ceramic wares or shapes. Here one of my first attempts towards ‘translating’ (also visually) the code of a specific ceramic category from one classification system to another one.

Database setting_ceramic codes correspondences_form

Database setting: ceramic codes correspondence form

This integrated corpus of data has been the basis for conducting a series of quantitative and statistical analyses, aiming at identifying potentially significant patterns. In the ceramic assemblage of certain sites, several technological and morphological developments can be traced, for example appearance of new fabrics and the decline of others (see picture below); adoption of new ceramic shapes, etc. These developments seem to have a chronological meaning and, in some cases, reflect wider changes taking place within the society and economy in the course of the Late Predynastic, the period of state formation, in Egypt.

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage_Nekhen, Egypt

Ceramic fabric variation across a stratigraphic sondage (Nekhen, Egypt)

I learnt the analytical methods I have applied and how to use the software to perform such analyses as part of a specific training program I followed. The research project has been supported by a funding scheme (Marie Curie Actions) which specifically fosters advanced training and career development of researchers.

I feel so privileged for this exciting experience of research and training! Equally, I am grateful for the support I have received from my teachers, mentors and colleagues in the past and in more recent years!

Many happy returns … for this Day of Archaeology!

Grazia

You can find out more about the project on this webpage.

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. The curatorial record of 1994 said this Italian 14C casket had one lock that was closed. We had a written conservation record from 1982 stating the casket was not locked, merely jammed, and could be opened with "appropriate leverage". X-ray shows 3 locks, all open.

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. The curatorial record of 1994 said this Italian 14C casket had one lock that was closed. We had a written conservation record from 1982 stating the casket was not locked, merely jammed, and could be opened with “appropriate leverage”. X-ray shows 3 locks, all open.


The Work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass & metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.Although 957 coins from one hoard were cleaned chemically on Coin We3dnesday, only 17 coins from another hoard where the corrosion is worse and the surfaces very crumbly were completed.

The Work of the Ceramics, Glass & Metals Section, British Museum Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. Although 957 coins from one hoard were cleaned chemically on Coin Wednesday, only 17 coins from another hoard where the corrosion is worse and the surfaces very crumbly were completed. These had to be consolidated and cleaned individually under the microscope.