Terracotta figurine—when archaeological becomes decorative

[caption id="attachment_480" width="200" caption="Before treatment"]

Terracotta is a type of soft red clay commonly used for its plasticity and ability to take detailed decoration motifs. Examples of its use throughout history are abundant and a lot have survived until the present day. However small and incredibly well preserved (considering its possible old age), an object like this can tell us about the habits and beliefs of a civilization of other times.

Excavated in Great Henny, near Colchester (Suffolk), a well-known Roman settlement in the UK, we could easily attribute its making to that empire. However, in-depth research must be done prior to those affirmations. If Roman or even brought to England at that time, these figurines were commonly made as votive objects in homes or temples. It is a draped sitting female figure with head decoration and her arms close to the body suggesting a pudicitia, representation of modesty during the Roman Empire.

[caption id="attachment_488" width="593" caption="Process of removing old adhesive residues"]

After the sections were bonded with Paraloid B-72 in acetone (35%) a support fill was added to the base area. The same adhesive used for bonding was bulked with glass microspheres to make a removable fill. The area was sealed with aluminium foil and a dental wax mould was put in place as a support. The microspheres paste was then applied and let to dry. By doing a fill in this way I could then safely shape and sand it far away from the original. After completely dried, the fill was skimmed with fine calcium carbonate putty and attached to the figurine with the same adhesive.

[caption id="attachment_496" width="300" caption="Before and anfter retouching fills"]

After completion of the treatment the figurine can safely go home with only a few recommendations on how to be taken care of (i.e. dust clean) for its maximal safety over a long period of time.