Ask an Archaeologist: Dr. Stephen Bourke

Posted in: Ask an Archaeologist, ASORTV
Tags: Ask an Archaeologist, ASOR, ASORTV, Semitic Museum, Stephen Bourke, What happens when you break an artifact?
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On our trip to the Semitic Museum,  Ask an Archaeologist posed one of it’s more colorful questions to Dr. Greene and Dr. Aja:

What do you do when someone breaks a fossil?  Do you beat them up and fire them?

While Archaeologists don’t often work with fossils, there was someone working at the Semitic Museum who had experience breaking artifacts.

“Over 30 years in the field, it is unavoidable not to have damaged an artifact”, Dr. Stephen Bourke from the University of Sydney in Australia told us in the storage center of the Semitic Museum.

When Dr. Bourke was just starting out as an archaeologist he was working at a Chalcolithic site in the Near East, which means it dated from about 4500-4000 B.C.E.  One of the most distinctive forms of pottery of the time period is called a cornet cup, which is shaped like an ice cream cone.

Dr. Bourke told the story of finding a complete cornet cup on his very first excavation. Below is Bourke telling the story of the cornet cup.  And after telling his story, Dr. Aja, very hesitantly, handed Dr. Bourke a cornet cup from the Semitic Museum collection to better illustrate the artifact.

“Never mind young Bourke, it will mend up beautifully.” Bourke told us was the advice of his Director, Dr. Basil Hennessy.

“And so it did.”  Dr. Bourke told us.

So no one was beat up, no one was fired, and in fact. Dr. Bourke received some extra practice in mending artifacts.


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