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8 March 2004
Bronze Age conservation project celebrates completion

A four-year project to save more than 100 Bronze Age ceramic pots has now been completed. The celebration to mark the end of Wiltshire County Council-led project will be held at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum's lecture hall on Wednesday, March 24.
     The last of the 105 vessels included in the conservation project will be handed over to Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes during the event, which starts at 6.30pm. The ceramic pots - which are between 3,000 and 5,000 years old - were discovered near Stonehenge, Avebury and other historically significant sites in Wiltshire. The conservation work is ground-breaking and it is the first time such techniques have been used in the UK.
     Repairs carried out by the Victorians and later generations used an unusual range of materials, including cement, terracotta plant pots and bicycle spokes. These previous repairs had started to fail and urgent conservation work was needed to safeguard the pots' future. Two conservators and a subcontractor worked on the project full-time. A large pot with cement to remove could take up to 230 hours to conserve. The processes used included removing cement, rebuilding the pots with modern, sympathetic materials and providing specialist packing for each vessel.
     Many of the pots were discovered by three of the most celebrated pioneers of archaeology - Sir Richard Colt Hoare, his colleague, William Cunnington, and General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, one of the leading archaeologists and anthropologists of the Victorian age.
     William Snow, Wiltshire County Council's cabinet member for education, said: "Conservators at the county council have carried out painstaking work over the last four years to ensure that future generations will be able to see and appreciate these extraordinary ceramics. The whole point of the project has been to enable the public and researchers to have access to these vessels. If they had not been conserved that would not have been possible. Paul Robinson, curator of Wiltshire Heritage Museum, said: "The project meets the expectations of museum visitors today - that whatever is displayed will be visually appealing and strictly accurate."
     The project cost a total of just under 200,000, with the Heritage Lottery Fund providing nearly 150,000. Other funding came from Wiltshire County Council, the two museums involved, the L J Skaggs and Mary C Skaggs Foundation, USA, the South West Museums Council and the American School in London.

Sources: BritArch Mailing List, Wiltshire County Council (8 march 2004)

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