Thellier-type measurements of ancient field intensity on specimens of clay and other sediments, which were apparently well-baked and oxidised in ancient times, often fail to give consistent results over part or even most of the blocking-temperature spectrum. It is suggested that post-baking chemical alteration, or weathering, leading to the presence of hydrated Fe minerals, is a major cause of non-ideal behaviour in such material. The behaviour of hypothetical specimens containing either goethite or lepidocrocite can be predicted using simple models, and actual examples are given from two sites in southern Australia which show some similarities with the predicted model behaviour. The results of the Thellier measurements, after interpretations, agree closely with previously published results from the northern hemisphere for the period 4700-4200 yr. B.P. The presence of hydrated minerals may not be readily detected by methods other than the Thellier technique and, if so, would result in estimates of the ancient geomagnetic field strength that are systematically too low.