Although we bring back bucketsful of pottery from the site to wash at camp, most of it ends up returning to the field.
After the pottery is washed and dried, our pottery expert (Dr. Dina Shalem) examines and sorts each basket. She is looking for diagnostic or indicative sherds. These are pieces of pottery that can help us identify and understand the types of vessels used at Marj Rabba. Diagnostic sherds include: handle pieces, rims, bases, uniquely painted body sherds, or decorated sherds.
For example, a certain piece of rim could be identified as part of a large crater bowl or a smaller cooking vessel, depending on the rim. Or a piece of hula ware, which is a decorated pottery from the North, can tell us about the trade that was occurring between there and Marj Rabba. Combined with other threads of evidence, this pottery will help inform us of the people’s daily actions and interactions.
Once the diagnostic sherds are separated they are counted by part of vessel and features present in order to provide a numerical assessment of the vessels present at the site. Then they are marked with the basket number, locus number, and license number, in that order. (Although if space is lacking only the basket number will be written down since all other numbers can be looked up via basket number.)
This is vital, as many of these pieces will be removed from their bags containing this identifying information in order to be drawn or photographed for publication. Including at least the basket number allows each piece to be contextualized and returned to its place.
After processing the diagnostics, the (very large) remainder of non-indicative sherds will be sent back to the field and banished to the pottery graveyard.