Seven Thousand Collections -- on the Web

Article excerpt

How many later prehistoric pottery collections are there in England? This simple question was the basis for a survey funded by English Heritage at the instigation of the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group. The goal of the survey was to create a register of all the collections which date between the Late Bronze Age and the Late Iron Age, c. 1000 BC--AD 50, and to complement this with a bibliography of published collections.

From January 1996 to October 1998, a team of 21 surveyors from across the country was engaged in the desktop recording of as many collections as they could find. This recording was conducted using a single-page proforma which requested the following information about each collection: date of record, survey area, name of collection, county, parish, NGR, SMR, Scheduled Ancient Monuments code, type of site using the RCHME Thesaurus of Monument Types (1995), current location of collection, final curatorial location, method of recovery (excavation, field-walking, evaluation, pipeline, causal pick-up, watching brief, other, no information available), size of collection, date range, and whether the collection had been published. Museums, units, amateur groups and individual collectors were contacted by the local surveyor.

If the collection had been published and that information was available in the public domain, then details derived from the publication were recorded using a second, single-page proforma. This requested a full reference for the publication, and the following information if available: number and weight of the sherds, `condition' of collection (total profiles, partial profiles, measurable rims, rims present but diameters not reconstructable), other pottery present at site by date range, other ceramic artefacts recovered with the later prehistoric collection (briquetage, clay weight, clay spindle whorl, crucible, mould, oven/hearth furniture, other clay artefact), other non-ceramic artefacts (copper alloy object, iron object, quern, slag, worked bone object, stone weight, stone whorl, worked flint), details about deep stratification on site (ditches with more than one layer, rampart, well, midden, quarry hollows, house/yard floor, other), pits (how many), structures (curvilinear/drip gully, posthole round structure, 4 or 6 post structure, fence lines, grave, shrine, rectangular building, square barrow, other), contextual details for the later prehistoric pottery specifically, presence of an archive and scientific reports about or associated with the later prehistoric pottery (radiocarbon dating, TL dating, petrological analysis, heavy mineral analysis, X-RF spectroscopy, neutron activation analysis, residue analysis, other).

The survey discovered 7138 collections of later prehistoric pottery in England of which 2032 (29%) are published. The proforma data about these collections were entered into a relational database using Access software. The database is currently maintained at the Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton and known as The Later Prehistoric Pottery Collections Register and Bibliography for England: a Gazetteer.

What is the data like? What kinds of information are there?

For example, there are 272 known later prehistoric pottery collections in Berkshire and 85 of these are published representing over 30% in print. …