Daniela Gräf / Judith Oexle

(Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen, Dresden, Germany)

Times in which material and personnel resources become increasingly scarce, require the intensified application of innovative systems in archaeology. In the Archaeological Heritage Service and State Museum for Prehistory in Dresden the idea was born to automate the time-consuming labelling of archaeological finds. This work is now done by a computer-controlled labelling machine developed in co-operation with the company: “Frank Gärtner Beschriftungstechnik “ [Inscription Technology] from Glaubitz near Riesa. The equipment was especially designed for the needs of archaeology. It labels differently formed objects of various sizes without contacting the surface. The object/find is positioned on the vertically mobile work platform under two laser-marked points which indicate the beginning and end of the field to be labelled. After release of a foot switch the inventory number, including a sequentially counted object number, is sprayed on automatically at the selected place with a fine jet of ink, in black or white colour depending on the underground. If necessary a white priming is sprayed on the object prior to labelling. The colour dries within seconds. Character height can be varied from 1 mm to 12 mm. The necessary adjustments are entered directly into the computer and are supported by a user-friendly software. The machine’s control computer is integrated into our office’s internal net and connected to an “Access” data base thus enabling the archiving and processing of object data inside the digital excavation documentation. With a volume of several 100,000 objects found per year on excavations in Saxony the advantage of automated inscription is obvious: The inscription rate is up to 600 pieces per hour. This leads to immense savings in both time and costs, in connection with a precision and clarity of the label which cannot be attained manually.