Close.....but not quite.

Badger
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Badger
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:10 pm

May 11th, 2010, 2:06 pm #1

Archeology on a site like Vindolanda depends heavily on sharp eyes. You have to constantly be scanning the soil for anything that is not quite right in terms of shape, size and color.
Of course, when you are looking that intently, you will sometimes start to see things that are "almost" artifacts. Certain soil conditions, or perhaps even a long stretch on minimal finds, can bring on actual hallucinations!
To help train in the eyes, I am posting a few pics of things that briefly caught my eye in late April and early May. Feel free to add your own as the season progresses.
This is a particularly challenging thing to photograph, as the factors which make them foolers can be subtle. Whether things are wet or dry, whether there is soil stain from surrounding iron pan, etc.
Enjoy, and please add your own contributions as the dig season moves along.

T.Wolter
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Badger
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Badger
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May 11th, 2010, 2:08 pm #2

When wet this had exactly the color of nicely preserved bronze. Perhaps a well worn amulet? The clue was that there was no surrounding oxide in the soil.

TJW
notbronze.jpg
Last edited by Badger on May 11th, 2010, 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Badger
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Badger
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May 11th, 2010, 2:13 pm #3

Here are a couple of sestertii.
Oh, I guess not.
Sometimes stones can be just the right size and shape, and in the dim light of the trench, even appear to have the right color for a fine patina. And with the degree of wear common on well circulated roman small change, the relative lack of surface detail is not a deal breaker. Remember, we are not supposed to wipe them vigorously on our sleeves to read the Emperors!
The second image is a bit of a cheat, it actually is felt to be an artifact. A stone gaming counter from the post roman end of the site. I guess by then they had descended from metal, bone and ivory counters, had run out of decent pottery shards from which to make their poker chips, and were gambling with hunks of rounded off rock.
TJW
bigcounter.jpg
notcoin3.jpg
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Badger
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May 11th, 2010, 2:26 pm #4

This is my favorite.

Look over the picture first, create a mental image of what you are seeing, then come back to read the correct (per Andrew) answer.




Sure looks like the handle to something. Lamp? Early Gillette Track II razor?

Nope. Its a naturally formed item. There is a very soft stone called mudstone found on site, and when washed by water it can form into some very convincing pseudo artifact shapes.

Andrew refers to this as a "Mudstone Willy", which would be a damned good name for a Blues musician.

I encountered one last year that was perfectly square and and projected up from a section of Site B cobbles.

Mudstone is very fragile, nobody would use it to make household articles. The "Willy" seen above broke when somebody set it down roughly the next day.


T.Wolter
msw2.jpg
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Andy
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May 11th, 2010, 5:32 pm #5

Ok, I will come clean. I broke it. The mud stone willy was scaring some of the more delicate visitors at the trench edge.

Andy
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LilianJackson
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Joined: March 3rd, 2010, 12:26 pm

July 26th, 2010, 12:08 am #6

Thanks for this insight into the pitfalls of being a digger! (It reminds me of fools gold. I once jumped into a cold stream in Colorado to get hold of something gleaming - only to find it was fools gold.) But, I would imagine, that when you do find a real artefact, the time and effort you have put in must make it especially pleasing. (Having weak eyes these days and even worse knees, I have not been able to dig with you - I have to enjoy the digging vicariously through your insights and photos.)

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Lilian
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