Finds identification

This is a list of simple hints and tips that can be used for identifying and dating some objects. Lack of space sadly means lack of supporting photos.  These tips are not absolute – but they are helpful.

Palaeolithic Neanderthal hand axePalaeolithic Neanderthal hand axes are subtriangular as in the photo – they date before 40K BC.

Mesolithic Tranchet axeTranchet axe: This shape is typical, in the UK they date from the Neolithic (after ~2500 BC) and Mesolithic (~12-2.5K BC). Mesolithic ones are likely to have the end cut off at an angle. Much earlier and cruder ones are found (Acheulian period) in Africa (~1.5Ma).

Neolithic polished Axe from MarlowPolished Axes: These work extreemly well as axes, they date from the Neolithic.  This example was found in Marlow.

Ceramics: are made from Earthenware (like a flowerpot) or stoneware (smoother, heavier and much harder) Stoneware dates from 16th Century onwards.

Bellarmine jarBellarmine jars (they have a grotesque face on them) date from after 1550 and become more common after 1600.

Wheel-thrown potteryWheel-thrown pottery (as opposed to coiled and smoothed) dates from either from the late Iron Age (Belgic) or from the 13th Century onwards. You can almost always see traces of the coils in non-thrown pottery.

Pottery inclusions: If local pottery inclusions are shelly they are usually from North Bucks. If inclusions are flinty it is Prehistoric. Roman inclusions were sand or (sometimes) shell. If the inclusions are grass, vegetable or grog (broken pot) it is Saxon – and the pottery will look and feel very grotty and like a soggy digestive biscuit!

Pot shape: Neolithic bowls usually have rounded bases, sometimes with a little lip at the top and occasionally two or four lugs for suspension. Medieval pots often have saggy bottoms (just like some from Warren Wood!)

Beaker potteryBeaker pottery usually accompanied a burial or cremation. They were well made and often had a herringbone pattern. Circa 2.5 – 1.5K BC. The shape in the photo is typical.

Pottery colour: This is usually a red-herring – it depended more on the firing than the date and should usually be ignored.

Pottery shape – see the Ashmolean website for an excellent section on this – http://potweb.ashmolean.org/PotChron1.html then change the 1 to a 2 – 9 for more.

Samian WareRoman Samian Ware: around half of all pots have a potters identification mark. It often has a foot ring and no inclusions.

Brill Ware  Brill Ware handle(Close up of slashing in handle) Brill Ware: impressive part glazed jugs, usually green or white and often with stabbing / slashing on the handles. 13th -14th Century.

Glaze: If it is glazed it is from the 13th Century onwards (though there is some very rare Roman glazed pottery). If there is glaze inside a pot usually dates from 13th – 15th century.

Pot rims: Medieval rims are usually flat topped, Roman rims are usually curved.

Hieroglyphs: – probably Egyptian, but also found on tourist tat!

By Gerry Palmer

All photographs are of the collections in Buckinghamshire County Museum

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