Multispecies Archaeology (Work in Progress, 2018/19)

Fig. 1: Cows bone I, photographed 24 hours prior to cremation (on ice for preservation)

The following is an experimental and ongoing documentation. It will show mostly pictures taken during the artistic process, as well as quotes taken from books and scientific articles found throughout the research. 

For this work, I collected bones of the non-human animals my partner ate. At most places trying to get the corresponding bones or bones at all is vain endeavour. The bones are, way before the food is eaten, already sold, burned and may have already fulfilled their work in an aluminum factory or at HARIBO. However, upon others a Chinese restaurant near the famous Viennese “Naschmarkt” could give us the bones. I put them on ice for conservation, while I worked out how to go on. 

At the end of this project I planned to have a porcelain object. For this, I will produce my own porcelain – including bone ash. The glaze will also be made out of bone ash. 

Necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of the British Empire this spirit of invention was problematic, as we can see in the Opium Wars. England was in need of materials it could not produce by itself or in its colonies. One example is Chinese grean tea, another is kaolin (also known as china clay). Thomas Frye discovered, that an at this time in England highly available material could be used as a substitute. Therefore, the worlds first documented proposal of using bone ash for manufacturing porcelain can be found in Thomas Fryes (Bow Porcelain Company) second patent:

On Nov. 17, 1749, Thomas Frye, of the parish of West Ham in the Co. of Essex, painter, for a new method of making a certain ware, which is not inferiorin beauty and fineness, and is rather superior in strength, than the earthenware that is brought from the East Indies, and is commonly known by the name of China, japan, or porcelainware." Animals, vegetables, and fossils, by calcining, grinding and washing, are said to produce an insoluble matter, named virgin earth, but some in greater quantities than others, as all animal substances, all fossils of the calcareous kind, as chalk, limestone, &c.: take therefore any of these classes, calcine it, grind and wash it in many waters [...] 1

Fig. 2: Kiln at the studio, University of Applied Arts Vienna

On Friday, Nov. 30. 2018, the first bones were prepaired for burning. The ash will be ready 6 hours later. In January I will calcinate more – mostly cow bones. 

Fig. 3 & 4: Sheep bones before and after calcination at 1000 °C 

After calcination the bones were manually crushed and pulverised. It needed around one hour for the bones to finally be fine enough for the porcelain.

Fig. 5: Manual pulverisation of calcinated bones

Sculpture / Porcelain Object 

This object is a hybrid – at the same time urn and dinnerware. This becomes possible through opening the lid. First, a 3D-Rendering of the object was created. This file will then be converted to be printable and readable by the 3D-Printer. After that, the mold to cast the porcelain will be crafted out of plaster.

Project details
Supervisor: Prof. Ute Hörner, Academy of Media Arts, Cologne, Germany
Supervisor (Ceramics): Martina Zwölfer, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

1 Chaffers, Marks and Monograms (ed. 6, 1876), 885f.

© 2018 Pascal Marcel Dreier