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