UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

A graduate conservation training program focusing on the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials

Students attend Ceramics Research Group pit firing at Dockeweiler State Beach

Post and pictures by Dawn Lohnas

We went to the Dockweiler State Beach last Saturday to fire our ceramic pinch pots that we made for Prof. David Scott’s “Archaeological Materials: Technology and Characterization” course. We fired them in a pit fire to get a better understanding for this ancient technology.

Here are our vessels before firing…you can see the pit warming up there in the background.

Vessels waiting to be fired

Vessels waiting to be fired

After the initial fire heated up, a layer of ceramic sherds was laid down to insulate the pots from the heat. Then our pots, along with all the other greenware (unfired pieces) were placed in the pit. Another layer of large sherds was placed on top of the greenware, and layer of bisqueware (previously fired ceramics) was placed on top of that. Then we added more wood, and fired it up again!


Vessels were placed in pit on a layer of ceramic sherds that act to insulate the pots from the heat


Then more wood was added

After firing for a good few hours, and reaching close to 900 degrees celsius, the pottery was ready to be retrieved.


Firing the pots

Most everything survived! Success!! Now we all know a little bit more about a technique that has been around for many millennia…Thanks to Don Corbett and Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett, Director of the Ceramics Research Group, at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology for organizing all of this!


Removing the pots after firing


Happy students with their fired pots. (L to R) Dawn Lohnas, Cindy Lee Scott, Nicole Ledoux, Tessa de Alarcon, Robin O'Hern, Elizabeth Drolet, Lily Doan (conservation students) Don and Marilyn Corbett (organizers)