This is Dina, our restorer, she has been part of our team since 1999, before she worked with other major projects such as that of Tel Miqne/Ekron. Besides working as a restorator, she received a BA in Archaeology from Hebrew University and has worked as a staff member in excavations in the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem. Below she describes just what it is she does in the lab;
“Yes!” you think, “I found another piece…” One sherd which fits together with another sherd and this is how the puzzle is slowly put together. Piles of sherds placed on a table gradually revealing their original forms, sometimes a chalice or Safi bowl.
The restoration of pottery vessels is not a modern invention. Even in the field, archaeologists will uncover vessels which had been repaired by their ancient owners in order to be used a second time.
The modern-day archaeological purpose of restoring these vessels is slightly different. Restored vessels enable us to understand the different pottery types and their distribution over specific areas of a site. This can show, for example, the purpose of a room identified in surviving architectural remains. If the many sherds collected from one room exhibit a large percentage of storage jars once they are restored, an archaeologist may reach the conclusion that the room was a storage facility. In addition, restoration assists in building the stratigraphy of a site based on the different types of vessels and their decoration.
And finally, it is especially nice to be able to restore these vessels so that future generations may be able to see them in museums and in exhibitions.
The best part about watching Dina work is in the first few weeks that she starts. Before she arrives, all the bags of broken sherds are laid out for her on her tables according to their loci. So many piles of tiny fragments of pottery. Then she arrives and week after week, vessels seem to rise up out of these piles and re-form themselves as if by magic – though of course it is by hours and hours of Dina patiently sifting through to find the right pieces, waiting for glue to dry, and filling in the rest of the gaps still missing with plaster. The rest of us in the lab get to wait impatiently to find out more about what all the loci and pottery baskets of the previous season’s digging contained.
Report by Julia