Investigating a 'Queen's Vase'

British Museum curators believe that this faience vase (made in Egypt, about 220-200 BC) was restored before the Museum acquired it in 1856. Heavy over-painting and gap-filling hid the vase's true condition but research indicated that the handle might not be part of the original object. At first, it was suspected that dowels may have been used to hold the handle in place and so, before dismantling, the vase was X-rayed. Metal or wooden dowels are usually incorporated into a repair to give additional strength. Care must be taken when these are removed to avoid stress or damage across the break edges.

X-radiography is a common technique used by conservators to locate breaks or cracks in an object or to understand how an object was made. The thin dark lines on the X-ray image clearly show the damaged neck and handle area of this vase. There is no evidence of dowelling so the conservator could safely dismantle the vase. Excess gap-filling and over-painting were also removed. The vase was reassembled with a reversible adhesive, without the handle as this proved not to be original.

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