Finds management from processing to research


Roman ceramic mixing bowl with lion-head spout

Download the finds management capability statement (PDF 121kb)

Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) provides a comprehensive archaeological finds service from on-site processing to report writing and archiving. Well-developed and adaptable computerised recording systems facilitate analysis of all materials.

Our experienced staff are at the forefront of research and methodological development in their fields, and are also available for lectures, workshops and training courses on all aspects of our work.

Advice and processing

Advice and processing includes the on-site scanning of material to provide feedback on date ranges. With the exception of large projects with their own on-site facilities, finds processing is undertaken in our purpose built facility at Eagle Wharf Road, designed to provide an efficient and cost-effective service.

We also offer finds administration and archive preparation, identification and interpretation of artefacts, X-radiography, conservation and packaging, assessments of assemblages for post-excavation analysis, advice on standards and the establishment of reference collections, retention policies, particularly kiln assemblages, and advice on retrieval strategies including metal detecting.

Pottery studies expertise

Pottery studies expertise covers all the major periods, including Prehistoric wares from southern England, Roman ware types from Britain and much of the Empire (including samian), Anglo-Saxon local, regional and imported ceramics, and medieval local,  regional and imported ceramics from AD 900 to 1480.

Work by our specialists has produced the fundamental chronology on which all ceramic dating for the region is based and maintain an extensive  fabric reference collection curated by LAARC. Post-medieval expertise includes the full range of pottery used in London and the South of England from 1480 to 1800+, including coarsewares, industrial ceramics and finewares, particularly delftware and porcelain.

Our pottery experts have particular experience in the analysis of large ceramic assemblages  and can provide analysis of medieval and post-medieval kiln assemblages, advise on the illustration or preparation of artwork, research designs, publication strategies, and specifics such as petrological analysis.

Finds research

Small finds research also covers the major periods, including lithic analysis; Roman artefacts of all classes and materials, particularly glass and copper-alloy and iron artefacts, including tools, domestic items, agricultural implements and musical instruments; Roman and later coins; all categories of Anglo-Saxon and medieval material, notably lead objects.

London has provided the material for a comprehensive series of medieval finds publications, largely the work of our staff. Post-medieval finds expertise also covers all categories, notably metalwork, leather and glass and draws on the unrivalled resource of closely dated objects from London. Our specialists also possess a range of expertise in the study of industrial and manufacturing processes, both ancient and early modern.

Building materials interpretation

Building materials staff are able to identify and interpret building materials in their archaeological and architectural contexts, making use of our extensive reference collection. Interpretative architectural analysis, in conjunction with MOLA historic buildings staff and using documentary evidence where available, permits the fullest architectural reconstruction possible.

Our service covers not only recently excavated assemblages but collections curated by other museums and institutions. Building materials advice can be given on the preparation of research designs, sampling and retention strategies on-site and during post excavation, and recording methods.

Expertise covers all the major periods and categories, including ceramic and stone building materials from the Roman period to the end of the 19th century; standing buildings of timber-framed, stone, or brick construction and tile or slate roofing; architectural worked stone; medieval and later floor tiles; tin-glazed wall and floor tiles; Netherlands hearth bricks and stove tiles; early Tudor architectural terracotta; daub and mud-brick; in situ recording, conservation and analysis of Roman and later painted wall plaster and associated mortar; and petrological examination and identification of ceramic building materials.

Woodworking technique

Experts in ancient timber and woodworking techniques can provide on-site and off-site recording of waterlogged structural woodwork of prehistoric to modern date, including sampling for dendrochronological dating and wood identification.

Our knowledge covers all types of timber structures, standing carpentry in timber or masonry buildings, structural woodwork and vernacular boats and historic vessels. Advice can be given on the preparation of draft publication drawings such as reconstructions or axonometric drawings, graphics and text for displays and exhibitions.

Lectures, workshops and demonstrations on ancient woodwork, woodlands and traditional and ancient woodworking crafts are also available. Our experts also offer practical training in the recording and analysis of ancient woodwork and traditional craft woodwork.

See our finds section