To B-72 or not to B-72? Alternative adhesives for archaeological ceramics

Elisheva Kamaisky and Rachael Perkins Arenstein


Choosing an appropriate adhesive is one of the fundamental decisions that must be made in archaeological conservation, particularly in pottery reconstruction. The practical considerations
hold implications for the treating conservator and others who will care for the material for generations to follow. As conservators gather their kits to head out to excavations across the globe each year, there are often recurring queries to colleagues and listservs on alternatives to Paraloid B-72.
This presentation will examine the variables that go into adhesive choices for archaeological ceramics with a focus on the hot climates of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Results
from an online survey documenting the current practices of archaeological conservation colleagues will be shared.
In 2005, The Israel Antiquities Authority began to examine its protocols for ceramic reconstruction. With limited resources and scientific capabilities at the time they collaborated
with the Italian Istituto Centrale per Il Restauro to review adhesives and reconstruction techniques used in the lab. Mowital B60HH (polyvinyl butyral resin) was determined to be the most appropriate adhesive for their treatment needs. This collaboration and the scientific process employed will be shared as a case study. A survey of historical ceramic treatments used by Israel Antiquities Authority will demonstrate the importance of a periodic review of adhesive choices. The differences in adhesive choices for field versus lab use will also be discussed. The goal of this presentation is not to recommend any single adhesive, but to examine some alternatives and the variables that inform the choice of adhesive in countries where resources, climate and other challenges may result in answers other than Paraloid B-72.