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Having just arrived as interns in the conservation department the work on the new Ancient Worlds galleries had already progressed so far we had not expected there would be anything left for us to do except help with installation. But, to our delight two Roman ceramic objects, recently recovered from a dig in Manchester, landed on our desk all trussed up like Christmas presents.

 

The pots in bags as they arrived in the conservation  lab with each sherd wrapped up in bubble wrap

Pots on arrival

On e of these was a Samian ware bowl. The bowl needed to be reconstructed before it could go on display. However the edges had become very worn and almost completely smooth which meant there were large gaps between the sherds.

image of the large space between two ajoining sherd edges

Gap between sherds

When there are gaps this large there is insufficient support to create strong stable joins. In order to give the necessary strength to the reconstruction, adhesive material mixed with bulking agents was added to the gaps. The filling material was also coloured with pigments so that it would blend in with the ceramic material, creating visual cohesion.

Image of reconstructed Samian bowl including colourmatched gap fills

The finished bowl

The terracotta flagon presented different challenges as there were missing areas requiring in-fills of plaster to provide structural strength to the finished reconstruction. The largest of these fills had to be completed after the pot was fully put together, but as a closed pot there was no access to the back of the fill area. Support was provided from a balloon held in place whilst the reconstruction was finished.

Image showing the lower half of the pot stuffed with packing beans and a balloon against the missing area of pot to provide support for the plaster fill

Balloon used as backing for fill

Image showing the missing are of pot now filled with white plaster

Plaster infill with balloon still inside pot

Once the plaster fill was dry the balloon could be popped and removed though the top of the pot. The fills were then colour matched and the pot was finally complete.

image of terracotta flagon with gaps filled but still visible so that the individual sherds are noticable in the finished object

The finished flagon

We look forward to seeing the first objects of our internship in their new home and on display to the public.

For another perspective on this project and other information about the Ancient Worlds galleries see: http://ancientworldsmanchester.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/going-potty-for-ancient-worlds/

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