Conservation of a milk bowl from Cyprus

Object Name: milk bowl

Dimensions: after reconstruction: height: 100mm   diameter: 235mm

Age: Cypriot early Bronze Age

Cypriot milk bowl before conservation work began

Cypriot milk bowl before conservation work began

Description: Red slipware milk bowl with a long spout and a small handle opposite the spout; round base. The bowl was broken into six pieces on receipt in the conservation lab, two of the breaks seemed fairly recent. The bowl had been re-adhered twice before: first with a white plaster-like material and the second time with a clear adhesive, possibly cellulose nitrate. Both adhesives had been smeared around the break edges and not cleaned off afterwards.

In 1997 the bowl had been taken apart by a conservator as the joins were seriously mis-aligned.

Fragment of the bowl with old plaster and adhesive

Fragment of the bowl with old plaster and adhesive

Treatment:  The clear adhesive was removed with acetone using cotton wool swabs. The plaster- like material had to be removed mechanically with a scalpel on the surface of the ceramic and by abrasion using sodium bicarbonate as an abrasive on the break edges.

Underneath the adhesive the surface of the ceramic appeared lighter in colour than in areas without adhesive. It was thought that this difference was due to more ingrained dirt in the surface that wasn’t covered with adhesive. Therefore the ceramic was steam cleaned to achieve a more balanced over all colour. After cleaning the colour difference still remained. It is possible that the adhesives that were previously used to join the ceramic changed the surface properties in the areas they covered.

The ceramic was joined using HMG B72, a readily available acrylic resin adhesive. Six small gaps along the break edges were filled with microballoons mixed with Paraloid B72 (acrylic resin) in acetone (40%). The gap-fills were then retouched with acrylic paints.

Cypriot milk bowl after conservation treatment

Cypriot milk bowl after conservation treatment

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