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But once everything came together it was clear we were looking at something pretty unusual.

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Often pieces from the same vessel can be found in different parts of the site, so it’s important that each piece has a distinguishing number. Pieces that are clearly part of a neck or a rim go to one side, base fragments to another station, and body sherds to a station in between.

Most archeologists and conservators love puzzles, and generally the first step to solving a puzzle is to classify the different types of pieces. In the beginning it can be hard to see how we will ever make sense of it all amidst the thousands of sherds.

Mending was easy, since the intact partial reconstruction did not obstruct any of the rediscovered sherds.

This Canton platter was less complete, but we were able to find some of its other pieces amongst a sea of blue and white Canton porcelain sherds.

In the case of the bottles from the cellar of the Longfellow House, for example, being able to see the complete vessel forms really helped date and interpret the site.