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Few projects retain all finds from all archaeological deposits. Unstratified material, for instance, may have little archaeological significance, while some particular types of finds, such as fragmented slate roofing material, can be recorded on-site or in post-excavation and not retained in the final archive.

Deciding which finds are to be retained should not be the sole responsibility of the project team. The project executive and the archive curator should ensure that finds selection is carried out in accordance with the aims of the project and the requirements of the archive repository.

This is a project planning issue, and a selection strategy must be put in place at the outset, whereby there is a clear mechanism for deciding which finds are to be retained, and what should be done to those that are not.

This will usually involve the agreement of an on-site finds selection procedure, and an off-site process of assessment of the finds assemblage.

The following points apply

  1. project planning must consider finds selection. Strategies for selection must be agreed between all relevant parties, especially the project executive, the project team and the archive curator, and the fact that this has been agreed must be stated in project documentation
  2. the agreed procedure for selection must be fully described in the project design or associated documentation (eg archive repository guidelines)
  3. changes to the finds selection strategy must, where possible, be agreed by the project executive, the project team and the archive curator. It is recognised that a finds selection strategy agreed before finds retrieval has begun may need revision during the course of a project. Unexpected quantities of a particular find type, or unusual depositional circumstances, may instigate reassessment. The mechanism for altering the finds selection strategy must be described in the project design
  4. the archive curator, with relevant members of the project team, should assess the finds assemblage after fieldwork and decide which finds are to be retained in the project archive. This process should be included in the initial selection strategy. The character of the finds assemblage and/or the site stratigraphy will inform the final selection process
  5. the selection process must be adequately resourced. Some finds may be recorded but not retained, and this process should be realistically costed in project estimates. It should be recognised that selection is undertaken by the project team, in accordance with agreed strategies, prior to transfer of the archive, and it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that there are sufficient resources within the project budget to complete that task
  6. the selection process must be completed before transfer of the project archive