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Guidance for Archaeological Archiving#


During this stage the principles outlined in section 2 "Data Gathering" still apply, but there are some extra considerations.

3.1. Maintaining the integrity of the original data when creating new information #

Documentation created during the data gathering stage should not be altered as it contains scientific facts or results with minimum added interpretation and holds information that cannot easily be obtained again. Once the project enters the analysis stage more layers of an analytical and interpretative character begin to be added to this data.

  • If original written records are to be amended or enhanced, use inks or pencils of a different colour. This enables future researchers to understand the thought processes and sequences of interpretation that apply to the analysis of those records.
  • Digital datasets created during data gathering should be ‘frozen’ and secured and any subsequent work should be carried out on copies of this data. This procedure maintains the integrity of the original data and provides a back up should subsequent versions become corrupted or unusable.
  • Practice version control in the creation of new digital files that contain data from existing files; name files with different version numbers to show the order in which they were created and amended or updated.

3.2. The care and treatment of materials during analysis #

During analysis both documents and materials (finds) are normally dispersed to various specialists for investigation and conservation procedures.

  • It is important that all internal and external specialists are made aware of and are obliged to follow, the project data management and archiving strategy as developed in the planning stage and outlined in the previous section, including for example, file naming, terminology and glossary controls, indexing and ordering systems and version control management.
  • The integrity of the archive should be maintained as information and material gets re-ordered or moved around. If any material archive is re-ordered, repacked or re-boxed during these analyses or treatment then this must be fully documented and this information included in or returned with the archive.
  • If destructive methods of analysis, such as thin sectioning or carbon dating, are employed then a record of this procedure, its result and its effects on any remaining material must be recorded in the archive.
  • The security of the archive must be maintained, and any dispersal of material objects (finds) and/or records to and from external specialists should be recorded in the archive management documentation, and the chosen method of transportation should be sufficiently secure.

3.3. Special treatment of human remains#

  • In some cultures human remains have significant meaning or an ethical or religious importance. Where applicable the national, regional or local law or guidelines regarding their treatment should always be followed.

3.4. Implementing and refining selection strategies#

The original selection and retention strategy should remain in force, but should be kept under regular review. This is especially useful at the stage where finds assemblages are evaluated for their potential for analysis and again during analysis when a secondary selection process may be undertaken after re-identification procedures.

  • It is important that the selection and retention strategy is reviewed against the project research or management objectives as the project progresses and that any changes to the selection and retention strategy are recorded and agreed by all concerned, including the recipient repository.
  • Any finds discarded as a result of this process should be documented as having been discarded and when and why this happened. If any finds have been reburied, then their reburial location should be recorded.
  • Selection and discard should not lead to any substantial loss of information which detracts from the project research or management objectives.

3.5. Data management#

During the analysis stage, it is likely that more than one person will be working on the project data and creating new files in the project records.

  • Everyone involved in this process should be conversant with the file naming and structure protocols that were defined at the planning stage, in order that all the project information is easily maintained and able to be accessed.
  • During the analysis stage it is important to employ version control methods to keep track of edits and different versions of the project documentation. This will also provide an audit trail of revisions and updates, up to and including the final versions.

3.6. Preparation for the transfer of the archive to a recognised or trusted repository#

The curator of the recipient repository/repositories should be involved in the project from the planning stage and the project should follow the repository’s deposition guidance from the outset in order that preparation for transfer will be easy (see STANDARD for archaeological archiving Chapter 3). The following should be standard for any submission:

  • The project archive should be accompanied by a project summary and overall contents list.
  • All parts of the archive should be fully indexed and ordered, and the archive should contain a master index to its component parts.
  • All parts of the project documentary and material archive should carry the project ID and classification information (object, photo, context number etc)
  • Project documentation, such as recording systems and techniques, selection and sampling strategies, project designs, recording manuals etc should accompany the archive.
  • All digital files should be ordered in a clear directory structure and employ folder and file naming conventions which aid retrieval of information. The metadata and metadata policy for the digital archive should accompany the archive.
  • The digital archive should be virus free on transfer and a copy of the archive should be retained until successful transfer is assured.
  • The material and documentary archive should be packaged in materials and boxes suitable for long term preservation in storage in accordance with national, regional, local or repository standards and in sizes as specified by the repository.
  • Where appropriate, material objects (finds) should be cleaned before being put into storage. Any cleaning should have been undertaken by or after consultation with a conservator-restorer and in accordance with any national, regional, local or specialist guidelines.
  • Prior to long term storage any wet or damp objects (finds) should have received the appropriate conservation treatment. Wet or damp objects should have been dried out in a controlled way, with the exception of metal from wet contexts. Artefacts which have dried out must not be re-hydrated.
  • Finds selected for x-radiography, either for identification purposes or during the conservation process, should be x-rayed prior to long term storage and the associated x-ray records (which should be stored with the digital/photographic/paper archive as appropriate) should be fully cross referenced to the objects.
  • The material (finds) archive should be ordered according to its material type, packing and storage requirements. Different types of objects, such as pottery and animal bone, should be kept separate.