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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Pyxis

by Kelly Rectenwald, Associate Objects Conservator


CAMConservation , ceramics , CAM collection

We are working on some tiny ceramics! These seventh century BCE fragments are part of a pyxis, or a small lidded cylindrical box. In ancient Greece a pyxis, like this, would have been used to hold cosmetics or jewelry. The fragments, which make up the base of the box, were brought to the lab to be rejoined to stabilize the object, returning it to its original form. With the pieces reassembled, we can clearly see some drips from the slip applied to the surface, as well as an ancient fingerprint! It’s always interesting and exciting to find these marks by the artist’s hand demonstrating how the piece was made. More than 2,500 years ago, a potter made this small container on a wheel, not too dissimilar to how a similar object is made today. Now that the base of the box is stabilized in one piece, its decorative lid fits perfectly!

Pyxis, circa 799–601 BCE, Greece, pottery, Gift by exchange, 1932.179.