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October Tuesday

Fans of centuries-old puzzles

The main hall of the Office of the Curator of the City of Matanzas (OCCM) where the first five young graduates of Archeology from the Daniel Dall' Aglio Workshop and Trades School are currently working, looks like a minefield of history.

It is mandatory to be attentive in this facility where the lovers of the patrimony strive to fix the marks of time on the objects found in archeological sites in order to restore them to their original shape.

“The first process applied to any type of ceramic element found in an excavation is the scrubbing, intended to rid the piece of any sediments,” a wet-handed Alejandro Marín Betancourt, 24, explains. “Then the piece is registered in the inventory and marked so that it can be returned later on to its original object, depending on the number of fragments found. We classify the pieces according to their typology: glazed, earthenware... and then we look for the matching pair, paying attention to the drawings and its shape before we glue them back together.”

The fruit of the archaeologists' patience can be appreciated in the temporary exhibition, organized by the OCCM, of pieces restored from the findings in the area where the foundational church of the city of San Carlos and San Severino de Matanzas used to be located.

“We make an inventory of all the fragments found at the site of the founding church, and we already have restored a hundred pieces and counting. We want to set up a museum there with the findings,” says another graduate, Bárbara García Domé.

According to Frank David Martinez Casal, also a member of the said first class of archaeologists explains that the exhibition includes maiolica, English and French ceramics, blue and green dip pen, pipes, and other centuries-old items.

The oldest crockery on display dates back to the late 17th century. The period of the piece can be estimated according to the technique of elaboration, composition and decoration, adds Martínez Casal points out.

Alessandro Lázaro Crespo Castro, in turn, stops for a few seconds what he is doing to describe his task.

“On the table I have organized the ceramics according to their typology, be it clay, glazed, ceramic grey, floral styles, and other motifs,” he said. “I classify the type of ceramics, what century it dates from, if it is dip-penned or not, etc; then comes the inventory, including the number of the excavation and at what depth the piece was found, and finally we proceed to the integration if the faces match.”

"Everything we do is complicated, but working with pieces of glass is more so," Marin Betancourt underscores, and Barbarita concurs, “since the fragments have no drawings that we could use as a guide and we have to rely on how well a fragment match with another. And when you find a fragment that you have been looking for a long time, you feel tremendous relief and joy, because the fewer the empty spots the piece has, the more valuable it is,” García Domé adds cheerfully.

How does it feel to lay your hands on centuries of history in your hands? Before the classic and inevitable question, the body language of the five young graduates reveals how aware they are of their responsibility, noticeable in the way Barbarita squeezes a little more the late 17th-century vessel she holds in her hands.

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