While the features uncovered and the spatial relationships of the materials found help archeologists learn how the site was used, artifacts also have a story to tell. Different types of artifacts help researchers learn about the people who used them.
1) Cleaning and Bagging
After artifacts are excavated, they are brought back to the archeology lab for careful cleaning and sorting. Each artifact is grouped by its provenience – that is, according to the specific area and depth from which the artifact was excavated. Within these groups, artifacts are sorted by type. For example, all glass is grouped together, and then different types of glass are separated into smaller, more specific, groups. Once the sorting is complete, the artifacts are bagged and marked to indicate provenience.
2) Identification and Cataloging
Once the artifacts have been carefully cleaned and sorted, each artifact is examined to record its precise type. Object name, material type (metal, ceramic, glass, etc.), specific material (iron, copper, porcelain, etc.), and specific properties such as manufacturing technique, decoration, and manufacturing date ranges are recorded where known. Unique marks, shape, weight and size are also noted when appropriate. Once cataloged, a unique number is assigned to each artifact group and the artifacts are packaged and prepared for curation or display.
3) Interpretation and Long-Term Curation
Cataloged artifacts are entered into a database. Researchers analyze the artifacts and their context along with historic records and comparative data to interpret the site. This information is incorporated into a final report and is used in exhibits and other interpretive products. All archeological materials not on display at the battlefield are stored at a state-of-the-art facility, the Museum Resource Center. The Center houses historic objects from around the National Capital Region and preserves them for future research.
Learn more about artifacts found at the L'Hermitage Slave Village: