Behind the Scenes: the Life-Cycle of an Artifact

For the past month, GRA’s Brooklyn lab has been decked out with some of our prettiest artifacts from Riverside laid out for our visitors to admire.  Yesterday’s guest was Amanda, Director of Archaeology at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  We were excited to show her the progress in our analysis of the Riverside material we excavated last year.


Curious about what happens to an artifact after excavation?  Well, here’s a quick run-down of the life-cycle of an artifact:

First, the objects are placed into bags marked with information explaining exactly where on the site they were found.  Then it’s off to the laboratory!


Here, artifacts are given a good scrub (or a light one, depending on how delicate!) to get most of the dirt off.


Next, each artifact is given a number to help identify it, and that number is labelled directly onto the object (pretty tedious work depending on the number of artifacts!).  This number helps us keep track of all the information we gather about each individual item.


Then, we get our finds ready for a photo shoot! These photographs are useful for publications on the site, and for people who may want to research the artifact without taking it out of storage.


Sometimes we decide to do some conservation work in order to better identify and examine objects that are a little more worse for wear (an example of this being yesterday’s Curator’s Curio!)


Ongoing research of historical documents pertaining to the site and analysis of the objects themselves reveal much about what they were used for, the people who used them, and the time period in which they were made.



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