Ask the Archaeologist: What are the most common artefacts you find?
"What are the most common artefacts you find? And where do you find the most artefacts?"
From Savannah, age 12
Thank you for your question.
In terms of which types of artefacts are most common, it all depends what kind of site you're on! Let me explain:
If we're digging an early prehistoric site we may recover thousands of lithics. Lithics are flint and stone tools and waste pieces resulting from the production of the tools.
If, however, we are working on a Romano-British site we often find buckets and buckets of pottery.
Check out the picture, which shows the huge amount of pottery I found in just one very short section of enclosure ditch around an area of human activity close to Doncaster in South Yorkshire!
Then again, if we are investigating a site of the industrial age, so 19th century say, we can recover heaps of finds of all different kinds: pottery, animal bone, ceramic building material (bricks, tiles etc), window glass, bottle glass, metal finds of all kinds and fragments of clay pipe ... many, many fragments of clay pipe!
Of the types of finds, I would say that generally it is pottery which we find most often. And pottery is very important as pottery types and methods of manufacture change over time making it very useful in dating our sites. Actually, if you look at the photo of me taking a photograph on the Ask the Archaeologist page, you'll see me taking a photo of an early medieval pottery kiln in Pontefract. When it was abandoned, the kiln was backfilled with over 25,000 sherds of pottery!
As to where we find the most artefacts, I would have to say cities. If we are digging in a city such as London that has a very long history, we might dig down through metres of occupation layers from the last century right back to its Roman origins. On such excavations we could find hundreds of thousands of finds!
Hope this helps,
All the best,
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