The Unknown Object

KoehlersHow do you approach an object you have never seen before and which, to your knowledge, has never been published?

In the absence of an artist's signature, date, or other documentary material, such as where the object was discovered, archæologists and art historians rely on the form, technique, and content of an object to assign it to a specific time and place. This attribuition is generally made by comparison with other objects already known to the scholarly community. In the case of the Hampen-Sydney amphora, its material (red-orange fired clay), technique (wheel-thrown pottery with black-figure painting), form (a neck-amphora), and content (Greek warriors and a battle scene) all suggest a Greek origin of the mid-6th to early 5th century B.C.E.

Examination is the first step. Subject experts (classicists, archæologists, and art historians) and object specialists (conservators) work together to determine the condition of the object. Conservator Sharon Koehler looks at the pot for her condition report.