(June 29, 2022)—“Can we hold this one? It’s not larger than 1 / 4, but it surely’s embellished and fairly.” asks Ashley Tillery, a fellow excavator in Unit 462, inquiring a couple of small painted ceramic sherd she is holding in her hand as she searches by way of the ¼” display screen searching for artifacts to be collected. It’s a query that we’ve got all requested at the very least as soon as these previous 3 weeks regardless of understanding the reply virtually each time.
At this level in our excavations, the principles for the bagging and assortment of artifacts primarily based on their sort have been totally ingrained into our brains, but it surely nonetheless feels unusual to dump screens stuffed with small ceramic sherds into the piles of filth to be backfilled on the finish of our excavations. Everybody working on the Gila River Farm Web site can inform you that ceramics solely get collected if they’re larger than 1 / 4, no matter how embellished or intricate the design is. The identical rule applies to historic glass. This rule, although versatile at instances, is in distinction to the bagging and assortment rule for flaked stone, bones, and any shells discovered on the web site, which basically boils right down to “bag each piece, no matter measurement.”
Though it has been an adjustment to not acquire and label each archaeological materials in sight, together with these present in trenches, outdoors our unit, or caught throughout the surrounding partitions, there’s a good clarification as to our discovered selectivity, which relates again to the tour we got of the Arizona State Museum (ASM) collections again in Tucson. We have been capable of see how the curation disaster is affecting museums throughout the US, together with ASM, and the way we, as budding archaeologists, can do our half to not over-contribute to the disproportionate relationship that exists between museum collections and the quantity of area and workers there are to handle them.
One other curation-related motive for our “keeper” rule about sherds is the straightforward incontrovertible fact that we’re solely capable of acquire restricted info from them. Sometimes called “undiagnostic,” small sherds can’t be positively recognized as belonging to a particular group or time interval if they’re smaller than 1 / 4 (generally). If a small sherd one way or the other makes it by way of the gathering course of and winds up in one among our ceramics labs, we’ll as soon as once more be requested to kind by way of the bagged artifacts to make sure they’re all bigger than 1 / 4—and if they don’t seem to be, then they are going to be positioned right into a bucket to be returned to the positioning and positioned within the backfill pile.
The completely happy ending to our selectivity—apart from relieved museum workers—is harking back to the entire mission of Preservation Archaeology at Archaeology Southwest. By not amassing each artifact that crosses our path, we’re following the concept that we aren’t disrupting the positioning any greater than essential as we work to know the area and the way folks used it. Artifacts which are too small to make a definitive conclusion usually are not unnecessarily collected, dealt with, washed, and despatched to a museum the place they’ll stay in a collections bin on a shelf in ASM for the foreseeable future. As an alternative, I reassure myself by understanding that these artifacts are going to stay the place the individuals who used them left them.
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