Colour aerial photograph showing a couple of large quarries with a tree lined river running between them
Dolomite quarries, photographed on 10-JUL-2007, flank the river Don north east of Conisbrough, Doncaster (NMR 20649/23). © Historic England
Dolomite quarries, photographed on 10-JUL-2007, flank the river Don north east of Conisbrough, Doncaster (NMR 20649/23). © Historic England

Reference Collections and Typologies

Reference Collections & Typologies are used in all areas of basic and applied research, to identify, classify, compare sites and aertefacts or provide chronological sequencing.

Here you can find out more about:

What these recources can cover

They include a wide range of reference collections (physical and online), typologies, classifications, identification guides, thesauri and works of syntheses. These cover a wide range of topics, such as archaeological and historic building fittings, aretefact types and materials, as well as environmental science ecofacts.

Examples of Historic England funded projects to develop reference collections & typologies

  • Worcestershire Ceramics Online Database. The Worcestershire Ceramics Online Database makes the complete pottery fabric (from Neolithic to the modern period) and form type series for Worcestershire available online. It contains information on all the pottery fabrics used and made in Worcestershire.  The Worcestershire online type series is aimed at ceramic specialists and students, but could be used by anyone interested in identifying and studying pottery.
  • The National Zooarchaeological Reference Resource (NZRR). The aim of the National Zooarchaeological Reference Resource (NZRR) is to improve accessibility to zooarchaeological reference collections and facilitate zooarchaeological research across all sectors. Currently (January 2017) the NZRR includes data from 18 collections including Historic England and a number of university and museum collections.
    The specimens held by those collections can be searched together and filtered by taxonomic level and sex. Further details, such as age and carcass metrics, can be browsed, and full details downloaded.
  • The National Pipe Archive The National Pipe Archive (NPA) was established to collect and preserve documentary and archaeological evidence relating to the history and culture of pipe smoking. The new website has been set up provide a guide to the collections and to make some of the more significant elements of it available online. These can be searched using an interactive map of the British Isles. The main aim of the website is to help researchers with their pipe related queries and to provide a 'one stop shop' for anyone trying to identify pipes or prepare a report on excavated material.
  • The Mineralised Plant and Invertebrate Remains guide provides photographic information to aid the identification of the most commonly found mineralised (calcium phosphate-replaced) plant and invertebrate remains. The guide highlights identification criteria, examples of archaeological sites with mineralised material, data on modern ecology, and outlines the interpretative value of each taxon. It will increase awareness of how useful this range of material can be for maximising the information obtained from archaeological cesspits, garderobes, middens, town ditches and rubbish pits.

Strategic review of archaeological reference collections & typologies used in the sector

We are undertaking a strategic review of archaeological reference collections and typologies currently being used by the sector – in particular for post excavation work as part of development-led investigations.

We are interested in identifying:

  • Gaps in these reference resources – eg: gaps in geographical coverage or artefact type.
  • Issues associated with access (eg out of print).
  • Whether they are out of date, not fit for purpose and need updating.
  • Associated training needs.

The aim is to understand the situation better so that we can begin to implement a programme of improvement alongside our partners in the sector.

Survey of Ceramic Type Series

We are undertaking a survey of ceramic type series that exist in England, working in partnership with the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group (PCRG), the Study Group for Roman Pottery (SGRP) and the Medieval Pottery Research Group (MPRG).

A survey has been sent to all the known regional, county and local ceramic type series or reference collections in order to assess their current condition (for example who is hosting them, are they being updated, are they accessible, and are they being used?). The results of this project will be made public by April 2018 which we hope will lead to a strategic plan on how future type series can be developed and maybe more importantly, how they can be sustained.

Developing a Standard for Ceramic Type Series

An extension of the project to develop the Worcestershire Ceramics Online Database is now underway to develop a standard for creating ceramic type series. Again, working with all three of the ceramic research groups, the aim is to agree on what information is required (information fields, terminologies etc...) to create a ceramic type series.

The aim is to develop a consistent approach to developing type series in order that they can be linked up and made more accessible.

Dan Miles

Research Resources Officer
  • Department

    Capacity Building Team, Research Group
  • Address

    EC4R 2YA