Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Glossary and guide for all the statistics


See objects

Careers of individuals

Note that both amateur and professional people are included under the same career heading.

Class of artefact

The Pitt Rivers Museum's databases define all objects by type (or class). This is the broadest possible definition of what an object 'is' or what its function is. For collections management purposes all objects are further defined by 'keywords', but these have not been used for statistical purposes.

Continental divisions

PRM collections are divided into the following continents: Africa, Americas (North and South), Asia, Australia, Europe and Oceania. England obviously comes under Europe.


So far as is humanly possible double-counting between categories has been avoided. Where it is impossible a note to that effect has been made.

'English' artefacts

All items that could be English have been included in these statistics. Some artefacts have been included in the statistics which MIGHT be English, but are not clearly identified. There may therefore be a few items included which in fact would be deemed not to be English if we had more information.

Estimates of number of objects

Some types of artefacts have not always been accurately counted when they were being accessioned historically. These categories include stone tools and pottery sherds. Many of these collections were accessioned in the past as bulk entries and were not counted. Many totals therefore are based upon estimates using the best information available. It is likely that as more and more of these historical collections are accessioned properly the total extent of the stone tool collections will be known.

Ethnographic or archaeological objects

All items in the Pitt Rivers Museum's collections are defined as Ethnographic or Archaeological. However, many items fall between these categories. For them the definition of 'Other' has been defined for this project. This is not true for the Museum as a whole which classifies such objects as either ethnographic or archaeological. For the English collections items such as models, forgeries, reproductions, and gun-flints (which are both ethnographic and archaeological) cannot be so classified. For such items we have set up a category called English Other. This category also includes items that are natural and not man-made, eoliths and photographs of objects.

Geographical provenance: Countries

The Pitt Rivers Museum uses current country names not historical ones. In this case the PRM uses the UK as the country name for all English objects and England is used as the Region (as are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Geographical provenance: Regions

The Pitt Rivers Museum seeks to provenance objects down to the closest possible available geographical locator. However, for many objects the most information that is available is either just the country, or in the case of England, county or town. In some instances English objects are provenanced to two or more possible counties, in which case the object is counted against both in the statistics.

Number of objects

Each object is counted separately by the Pitt Rivers Museum, and, therefore by these statistics. This includes items like pairs of shoes which count as 2 objects as they can be physically divisible even though they form a single entity. Stone tools and pottery sherds are notoriously poorly counted, the figures for these are therefore the most likely to be wrong. In many cases the total number of objects for them is unknown and an estimate has been provided.

Patterns of acquisition

These patterns are based upon the accession number (the unique identifier assigned to each object). Therefore they represent the date they were acquired by the Museum. In most instances there is insufficient information to identify when objects were collected in the field.

Weapons and tools

Many items in the Pitt Rivers Museum, especially stone tools, are defined as being both a weapon and a tool. In some instances this is because they do perform a function as both (for example, as an axe does), but in most instances this is because there is insufficient data about use. All weapons and tools are therefore defined as being either definite tools, or definite weapons or weapons or tools, they are classified separately so there is no double counting between categories.