Documenting the physical characteristics of the ceramics and the social contexts where they were found (mostly graves) was the first step toward understanding the ceramic traditions of prehistoric Ban Chiang.
Documentation of Ban Chiang pots in situ yielded a rich dataset that would not have been possible had pots been removed from the site by looters or untrained excavators before study.
Precise locations of pots and pot sherds were recorded at the sites excavated in 1974 and 1975. Tens of thousands of site images—black and white photos and Kodachrome slides—recorded excavation contexts, artifacts in situ and the progress of the excavations. Measurement of multiple excavation levels and their contents were documented in hundreds of field drawings.
In early 1976, thousands of bags of sherds and pots, carefully labelled as to provenience, arrived at the Penn Museum for study. There they were painstakingly reconstructed as pots during more than two decades of work by trained volunteers and Penn work-study students.
Over that same two decades, pots were documented with carefully measured drawings, involving the skill of many illustrators. Most were Penn work-study students trained in the Ban Chiang lab.
To date, about 500 complete and reconstructed pots from Ban Chiang and three related sites—Ban Tong, Ban Phak Top, and Don Klang—have been photographed and digitally archived.
The Ban Chiang Project began to computerize site and artifact documentation in the late 1970s using mainframe computing. In the mid-2000s, digitization of images and other records began and the process is still underway today.
During the Ban Chiang Year of Ceramics, a comprehensive ceramics database was developed for the ceramics of Ban Chiang and three related sites. Under the direction of Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau, more than 130 variables on each of the 500 whole and reconstructed pots were recorded during academic year 2010-2011 and through 2012. Detailed and systematic data such as pot shape, dimensions, color, fabric, as well as forming and finishing techniques became part of the digital record.