In archaeology, a sherd, or more precisely, potsherd, is commonly a historic or prehistoric fragment of pottery, although the term is occasionally used to refer to fragments of stone and glass vessels as well.
Occasionally, a piece of broken pottery may be referred to as a shard. While the spelling shard is generally reserved for referring to fragments of glass vessels the term does not exclude pottery fragments. The etymology is connected with the idea of breakage, from Old English sceard, related to Old Norse skarth, "notch", and Middle High German scharte, "notch".
A sherd or potsherd that has been used by having writing painted or inscribed on it can be more precisely referred to as an ostracon.
The analysis of sherds is widely used by archaeologists to date sites and develop chronologies, due to their diagnostic characteristics and high resistance to natural, destructive processes. Some characteristics of sherds useful to archaeologists include temper, form, and glaze. These characteristics can be used to determine the kinds of resources and technologies used at the site.
There are three types of sherds: rim sherds, body sherds, and base sherds. Rim sherds are fragments of a ceramic artifact's rim, while base sherds are fragments of the ceramic artifact's base. Body sherds are fragments of ceramic that are not identified as rim sherds or base sherds.
While all types of sherds carry valuable information, rim sherds and base sherds are especially informative because they allow archaeologists to determine the style of the original object.
Kipfer, Barbara A. "Archaeology Wordsmith." Archaeology Wordsmith. Archaeology Wordsmith, 2002. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://www.archaeologywordsmith.com/lookup.php?terms=Sherd>.
- Kipfer, 2002
- Shepard, Anna O. (1956) Ceramics for the Archaeologist. Carnegie Institution of Washington.
- Rice, Prudence M. (1987) Pottery Analysis. University of Chicago Press.
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