A Treasure Among the Sherds

Beneath the Surface

By: Lynn Grant

Originally Published in 2014

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The leg originally visable in the bag of sherds
The sherds after cleaning and sorting.
Intern Keshia Talbert with the completed vessel (UPM object #40-16-75).
Intern Keshia Talbert with the completed vessel (UPM object #40-16-75).

The treatments done by Penn Museum conservators usually relate to a current exhibition or loan. For our interns, however, we often seek out specially challenging or interesting projects that might otherwise not be treated. In the spring of 2009, when Beneath the Surface: Life, Death, and Gold in Ancient Panama was just a glimmer in the curators’ eyes, I asked American Section Keeper, William (Bill) Wierzbowski, to find a nice ceramic project for our pre-Program intern, Keshia Talbert. As Bill surveyed the shelves containing bags of sherds from Sitio Conte, an intriguing shape was visible through the dusty plastic. “Why, that looks like a leg,” he thought. The Sitio Conte excavation produced many, many bags of sherds and we weren’t sure whether the bag’s contents would be a mendable pot or not, but we presented it to Keshia to make sense of. Which she did: her report notes 98 separate sherds, most of which belonged to one vessel. And what a vessel it turned out to be. The “Fat Shaman,” as he was affectionately known, quickly became a lab favorite. Keshia got the experience of a complex mending and filling treatment, and we got a tempting glimpse of what undiscovered treasures those bags of sherds might produce. Five years later, Conservator Julia Lawson has been heading up a team of conservators making sure all the artifacts selected for the exhibition have received the same loving attention.

Cite This Article

Grant, Lynn. "A Treasure Among the Sherds." Expedition Magazine 56, no. 3 (December, 2014): -. Accessed July 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/a-treasure-among-the-sherds/

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