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the ultimate signature

updated mon 31 mar 97 on fri 14 mar 97

The latest issue of Science magazine reports that ancient Greek potters
have finally been fingered. It appears that, in some cases, these sticky
fingered potters have left behind evidence of who made which pot.
Fingerprints on fragments uncoverd in Southern Italy at Metapontum near
Taranto from the 5th century B.C.E. are being analyzed.Italy at that time
was part of the Greek world. The fingerprints have shown that there was a
division of labor at urban workshops. In particular. they are being used
to identify the work of the "Dolan Painter," an artist who decorated in a
distinctive style and whose pots are in museums all over the world.

About 400 fingerprints have been found and 70 of the best have been
analyzed. Four different pot makers have been identified: one modeler (the
article's term), 2 painters (again, the article's wording) and one who
touched up damaged items. In addition, judging from the number of prints,
there were probably about 10 other workers in the workshop.

Using fingerprints in archaeological research is not new. However, using
them to identify potters was started only last year. Archaeologist
Francesco D'Andria is very excited at the prospect of setting "up an
archive for attributing the vases to their individual painters, not only on
the basis of style...but on the unintentional signatures they left."

Ruth Ballou

Doug Gray on sun 16 mar 97

I was visiting the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth several years ago when
they exhibited a collection of African Art work. Amoung the pieces were
some fascinating clay masks. They were displayed in glass cases that
allowed viewing from all sides, including the back. The masks were so
smooth and finished on the front, but from the back you could see that
they were coil built, and yes, you could even see the finger prints.
Since that time I have always been on the look out for finger prints,
just a hobby of mine.

I also like to look at broken shards of old thrown pottery. It's nice
to see throwing marks and even some twisting of the clay from the

Doug Gray
Alpine, TX