CHALCOLITHIC RED COLOURED CERAMICS
FIXING OCHRE POWDER WITH GARLIC - AN EXPERIMENT
Mihaela MOŢĂIANU (Curator)
The colour red is a cross-cultural symbol that has been found since the Palaeolithic. In the Chalcolithic of the South-Eastern Europea, red ochre was often used for post-firing ritual decoration of ceramic vessels, as in the Vinča, Vădastra or Gumelniţa traditions.
We do not know what the significance of this ritual was. The colour was applied after the pot was fired and was preserved only in a few cases because it was not fixed by a second firing or polishing action. We also do not know what method was used to fix the pigment provisionally, so we have tried different organic adhesives available to prehistoric people. The most effective adhesive for immediate colour fixation, but also easy to use, was garlic (Allium sativum). The technique of gluing gold foils on wood still uses this method in restoration today thanks to garlic adhesive. In this choice we also considered the symbolic value of garlic, as ethnographic data shows.
This exhibition presents an experiment of fixing red ochre on black and white incised pottery from the Chalcolithic tradition called Vădastra, using a garlic clove as a tool. The colour was precisely positioned due to the clove shape and the pigment adhered immediately to the surface of the ceramic vessel due to the natural adhesive.