by Elizabeth Paynter – CART Lab Director
An artifact type collection is a collection archaeologist’s use for comparison to aid in identification. It is sometimes referred to as a comparative collection. Any artifact that exhibits features that we may want to note and identify can be added to this kind of collection. The type collections at the Fairfax County Archaeology and Collection Branch is a mixture of reproductions and artifacts where the original location it was found is unknown.
We have type collections of various artifacts including flakes from making stone tools, projectile points, prehistoric ceramics, historic ceramics, nails, faunal bone, and glass items. Type collections help the catalogers properly identify artifacts. Artifacts that are diagnostic, which have either a beginning date of manufacture and an end date of manufacture or a date which is the height of popularity, are incredibly important in this type of collection, but not the only important feature of a good type collections. Other information about objects and object types can be identified by comparing with artifacts that have that same attribute. Faunal collections can help us identify the animals people were eating in the past or animals that were in that location. Examples of stone tools can explain the type of activity that occurred on a site. Attributes of flakes produced as by-products from making stone tools give information about the manufacture of those tools.