Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Little Enigmas

No archaeologist knows every object type there is even in their home area, so anyone involved in fieldwork will have a number of finds that are in typological limbo, waiting to be classified. Many get dumped on-site because some detail shows that they're probably recent, and most of the time I think this judgement is made correctly. But we do lose some good stuff, particularly since field archaeologists have very little opportunity to learn about artefacts.

During my metal detector work with Tim & Kenth over Easter, we found a few pieces that look pretty old to me, but that I have been unable to classify. Dear Reader, I invite you to look at these pics and tell me WTF these things are. And please point me to pictures of similar objects!

F1. The end of a pewter ornament, wriggled decoration along the edges, a hook at one end, for some reason curving toward the front side, not the back side. Part of a pendant? A spoon?

F12. A copper alloy terminal for a flat iron object like a knife. Update: My old digging pal John Huttu tells me it's a terminal from the handle of a Late Medieval table knife. Go me!

F33. A small piece of a punch-decorated copper alloy object from a Viking Period cemetery. It reminds me of Vendel Period keys.

F36. An open tapered copper alloy ring with a rhomboid cross-section. A finger ring? Update: Pierre identifies it as a Medieval ear ring with parallels from Eketorp III.

F42. A small copper alloy polyhedron with a hole through it holding a thin iron rod.

F46. A copper alloy terminal for a flat iron object like a knife. From a site with Viking Period metalwork. Update: My old digging pal John Huttu tells me this is also a terminal from the handle of a Late Medieval table knife.

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Anonymous Pierre Petersson said...

Your F36 is by all certainty an ear ring. You can se similar things in "Eketorp III, Artefakterna" 1998 (ed Kaj Borg)KVHAA. p277.

F1, thera are simialr things on thist link, don´t know if it is of any use for you:


Pierre Petersson

09 May, 2006 13:56  
Blogger Martin said...

Thank you, Pierre! Eketorp III dates from the 11th through 13th centuries, which is after the time I know anything about. F36 is from a site with considerable aristocratic Medieval activity, so an ear ring of that date would fit very nicely.

09 May, 2006 14:14  
Anonymous Pierre said...

This "site with considerable aristocratic Medieval activity" sounds very interseting! Just some thugts aboyt the other artefacts... F33 reminds me a bit of a knife sheath mounting, but that might ofcours be totally wrong. It´s hard to judge from the picture. F42 seams to be a part some sort of rivet. F46 reminds a bit of Medieval dress equipment, such as found i churches and Medieval towns. But again, that might be wrong. Looks medieval though.

If opportunities to studdying artefacts in prehistoric archaeology are scarse, they are almost non existtent in Medieval archaeology.

Hope you make something out of it!

09 May, 2006 23:38  
Blogger Martha said...

I'm ignorant about these things, but it seems to me surprising that you are able to identify the function of as many items as you can, especially when you have only a piece of something. How does one go about deciding how any given item was used, aside from obvious ones, like brooches or knives, etc. Is it context? Similarity to modern pieces? Intuition?

10 May, 2006 19:30  
Blogger Martin said...

Two answers, Martha.

1. To be able to identify fragments of objects, you need to learn about finds by looking at a lot of whole objects and pictures of whole objects. I've spent countless days in museum stores, looking at finds.

2. To understand the practical function of the intact objects, we can search for parallels among objects with known use from historical times in museums and old paintings. And we can look at what kinds of objects they are found with. And we can look at what kinds of contexts they are found in. But there are many object types whose use nobody's figured out yet. In some cases we have an inkling that their "use" may have been cultic or symbolic, which of course makes them harder to understand.

11 May, 2006 09:26  

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