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THIS STORY LAST UPDATED: 31 March 2004 1532 BST
Bronze Age pots saved

Louisa Burden, conservation manager pictured with the conservators.
Louisa Burden, conservation manager pictured with the conservators.

A nationally-important project to save more than 100 Bronze Age ceramic pots has now been completed. The last pots to be conserved have been handed over to Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

The ceramic pots - which are between 3,000 and 5,000 years old - were discovered near Stonehenge, Avebury and other historically significant sites in Wiltshire. The conservation work is ground-breaking and it is the first time such techniques have been used in the UK.

Repairs carried out by the Victorians and later generations used an unusual range of materials, including cement, terracotta plant pots and bicycle spokes.

These previous repairs had started to fail and urgent conservation work was needed to safeguard the pots' future.

The 105 vessels included in the conservation project form part of the Bronze Age ceramics collections at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes.

Both museums have collections which have been designated as being of national importance by the Museums, Archives and Libraries Council.

pot - detail

Many of the pots were discovered by three of the most celebrated pioneers of archaeology - Sir Richard Colt Hoare, owner of the Stourhead estate in Wiltshire, his colleague, William Cunnington, and General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, one of the leading archaeologists and anthropologists of the Victorian age.

Paul Robinson, curator of Wiltshire Heritage Museum, said: "This has been a model instance of co-operation between Wiltshire County Council and the two independent museums.

"The project also meets the expectations of museum visitors today - that whatever is displayed will be visually appealing and strictly accurate."

Peter Saunders, director of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, said: "This has been a remarkable project made possible through the collaboration of the Wiltshire County Council conservation centre and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

"It is wonderful to see these nationally important Bronze Age vessels restored once again to a condition worthy of public display."

Two conservators and a subcontractor worked on the project full-time. A large pot with cement to remove could take up to 230 hours to conserve.

The processes used included removing cement, rebuilding the pots with modern, sympathetic materials and providing specialist packing for each vessel.

• The project cost a total of just under £200,000, with the Heritage Lottery Fund providing nearly £150,000. Other funding came from Wiltshire County Council, the two museums involved, the L J Skaggs and Mary C Skaggs Foundation, USA, the South West Museums Council and the American School in London.

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