A Plethora of Pin Flags

By Jessica Lumb

Redbanks. April 2012. An uninspiring ploughed field and a group of Archaeology students.


The ’empty’ field.

Ask many of them, I’m sure they were equally underwhelmed when we arrived. Wait, where’s the Archaeology? What on earth was going to keep us busy in this empty desolate field for a whole week?

After our initial orientation of the site, it became apparent. Out of the clods of earth, covered in dirt, hidden between the stalks of upright wheat, there were hidden treasures. Artefacts. Tiny gems of historical and archaeological wonderment.

Day two was the eye opener, and my first experience with a wonderfully bright and cheerful indicator of archaeology; the pin flag. Nothing extremely special in itself, a long straight piece of wire inserted into one end of a portrait orientated rectangle of coloured plastic; but the passion I feel for the pin flag is magical. I can remember feeling the same way about rainbows at about six years old; yes the rainbow itself was visually pleasing, but it was the idea of that pot of gold at the end that I was constantly obsessed with.

Of course, at the end of our rainbow pin flags inserted into the earth there were no tiny pots of gold, but for the Victorian domestic ware enthusiast (me) it was pure heaven, for each pin flag represented at least one shard of glass, ceramic, or other item of significance. The number of these tiny magical items was absolutely overwhelming.



Section of ‘Rhine’ pattern ceramic.


The pin flag’s work was never quite done in this field. Almost as soon as an artefact location had been recorded, and the pin flag removed, it was usurped by another team and inserted into another section of the site. A hot commodity indeed!

As such, the sheer volume of artefacts we recovered during the week (in my entirely visual opinion) cannot best be represented by a table of numbers, but in a simple photograph of a small section of an ’empty desolate field’.



A plethora of pin flags