The standard method of registering objects in the collection of the British Museum is to give each piece a 'registration number', consisting of the year of accession, followed by the month and day, and then the number of the item accessioned that day (example: 1999, 9-15.1). For historical reasons, the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan has also given each piece a sequential number, known in the department as a 'big number', and these are referred to with the prefix EA (Egyptian Antiquities).

This latter number is the preferred method of referring to an object. Certain number sequences have tended in the past to be allocated to certain types of object; for example, numbers less than 2000 tend to be stone sculptures, while most papyri tend to be in the 10000 range. Nowadays, however, the next available number tends to be allocated. For papyri, each papyrus receives one number, and the individual sheets are indicated by a suffix. Thus EA 10470 is the papyrus of Any, and sheet 5 is represented as either EA 10470/5 or 10470.5.

Some early publications by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge also use a separate 'exhibition number', which should not be confused with the EA number.