There are many ways objects can fail. Especially objects that are fired at temperatures of more than 1100 degrees Celsius. This Song Dynasty Chinese kendi, or spouted vessel, warped as a result of temperature fluctuations in the kiln as it was being was fired. James Marshall Plumer recovered it in the nearby dumps. Plumer, who later taught Asian art history at U-M, traveled widely in China as an employee of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Agency from 1923 through 1937 (and later returned as a Monument Man after World War II). He identified and made collections at several abandoned kiln sites. The Museum’s Plumer Collection consists of more than 5000 ceramic sherds and whole vessels. For archaeologists, failures can be even more informative than perfect objects, because they teach us about ancient technologies and their development.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.