We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip main navigation

Processing the finds

How do we process the finds at Portus?
VINCENZO PALADINO: I’m here with Penny, and I’m going to ask her some questions. What are we doing now?
PENNY COPELAND: OK, we are in the process of washing small finds. Now these are the very delicate items that we have, such as this fine ware pottery.
We have already jet washed some of the big pottery and the marble. And this is something that we can only do in Roman sites– in Italy– because the pottery is so hard. But at certain points the jet wash would actually destroy the fine ware, so we don’t use it for those. In addition, we have just small pieces of ordinary pottery and bones– animal bones– which are too delicate to put through a more robust cleaning programme. So we use toothbrushes, cold water. And we clean them enough so that we can see the outline, nothing more. We’re not trying to scrub them clean. We just want to make sure that we can see all the detail on them.
VINCENZO PALADINO: OK, Penny. Then after we will clean, what are we going to do with those materials?
PENNY COPELAND: Well, we have a whole series of specialists who work on the project behind the scenes. And we will take most of the material, and it will go to the specialists with their own material. So we have a plaster specialist who will look at things like this. We have a faunal remains specialist who considers the animal bones, the shells, even the sea shells, and the land shells. We have a glass specialist, a pottery specialist, and a marble specialist. So these materials– we sort them as we wash them, then we give them to the specialists to look at. And they will produce a report and apply their knowledge to them.
VINCENZO PALADINO: OK, Penny. And what about recording those things after cleaning?
PENNY COPELAND: Well, each material has a specific way of recording it. Certain features are more important on different materials. So for example, on metal, the only thing we have in this box at the moment– that you’ve been washing, or looking at– are probably 20th century cartridge cases. They will be recorded individually. The pottery will be counted, weighed, looked at. The bones are all counted. They’re identified by species, size. So they’re measured, as well. The plaster– such as the big piece here– will be counted and weighed and identified by colour, design, pattern. It’s very specific to each material. There’s no set thing that you can do to each item.
We would normally just quantify it and then look at each individual piece for detail.
VINCENZO PALADINO: Thank you a lot, Penny. Now I’ll get a little bit washing.
This article is from the free online

Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education