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Restoration work starts in Jersey on rare Roman vase

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A FIRST-CENTURY VASE – thought to be the earliest artefact found in the Channel Islands – is now being painstakingly restored in Jersey.

Jersey Heritage museum conservator Neil Mahrer cleaning the 1st Century Roman vase found in a burial site in Alderney. (Picture by Rob Currie, 19186349)

The vase, alongside a number of human remains and jewellery, was found on Longis Common in Alderney in June by workmen laying an electricity cable.

X-rays at the Guernsey Border Agency have revealed there is something hidden inside.

The vase has now arrived in Jersey and is being restored in a laboratory at La Hougue Bie.

Neil Mahrer, a museum conservator for Jersey Heritage, has been tasked with trying to remove sand from the vase and restoring it to a near-original state.

The items were found on a site just metres away from a known Roman fort, the Nunnery, which dates back to the fourth century. Mr Mahrer thinks the vase is the only item dating back to the first century that has ever been discovered in the Channel Islands. He is working alongside Phil de Jersey, archaeologist for the States of Guernsey, on restoring the artefacts.

Mr Mahrer said: ‘I will just sit and use a hand tool, the same as a dentist would use, to chip away at the sand and I will just slowly remove it bit by bit.

‘Once the sand is out we are expecting to find at least one object in the vase which was discovered on the X-ray. We don’t yet know what it is and there could also be traces of honey or alcohol in the sand.

‘My plan is to take a series of X-rays and photographs of the vase before I start work and once I take it apart I will give each piece a number.

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‘Then we will use a special conservation glue to put it all back together.

‘It has an iron band around the top which is holding most of the vase together but, once that corrodes, I think the whole pot will crack.

‘I will remove all of the earth from the outside of the vase and then bind it with a bandage to stop it falling apart.’

Mr Mahrer will also clean a number of silver rings and bracelets which were found on the site, as well as human remains which have fragments of jewellery attached to them.

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Once the artefacts are restored they will be put on display at Alderney Museum.

Mr de Jersey travelled to Alderney when the site was found and said: ‘We haven’t found anything like this in Jersey or Guernsey before. The quality of the vase is also really interesting – that’s another extraordinary thing about this case. The pot is really good quality and we think it was made in somewhere like France or Belgium.

‘There are several pieces of jewellery and it would suggest people in Alderney were very wealthy who lived there during AD 10 to AD 20 [during the first century]. It’s just a piece of history we don’t know about. We have to wonder what these people were doing there.’

Mr de Jersey is hoping to return to the site next year to conduct a programmed excavation.

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