Not a Contemporary Tablet

Last night I took a look at the book, Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn. I bought it several years back when the nieces and nephews were young.

There was a single dog-eared page with the header, A 3300-Year-Old Time Capsule. According to the text, in the 1980s George Bass and a team of archeologists excavated the site of the Uluburun ship wreck off the coast of Turkey. The 3300 time capsule was a diptych.

Curious, so I googled George Bass and Uluburun ship wreck. I found additional, more complete information on the diptych in a Johns Hopkins Magazine article from 1997.

Sifting through mud that had filled a huge storage vessel, Cemal Pulak, then one of George Bass’ grad students, found fragments of wood and pieces of ivory. He pieced them together and discovered that they formed a diptych, a sort of ancient writing tablet that consisted of two wooden leaves hinged together with ivory. The leaves would have been coated with beeswax that then could be inscribed with a stylus. No one had ever before found a diptych so old.

After reading about the diptych, I then searched online for an image. This image was found on a page associated with Dr. Deborah Carlson and Jose Luis Casaban’s Introduction to Nautical Archaeology at Texas A & M University.

Uluburun diptych

Not keen of the ivory bits, but liked the idea of scratching through a surface. It is a lovely piece.

I did not continue the search to find the method used to assemble the pieces, but would have been amazing to do something similar to the staples used in some restoration.

Past Imperfect

This is an image from Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect has images of beautifully repaired objects. I am particularly fond of the glass and ceramic pieces that have been creatively repaired with the addition of a metal component.

When I made this piece as part of myTools for Rent (bronze dagger) series, I wanted to use the piece of wood for the front panel, but it was cracked. I drilled holes and wired the panel together.

Tools for Rent

The majority of my work is meant to appear to be artifact, to have had a previous life. After seeing the image of the diptych it occurred to me that in the future, I just might want to “age” the objects that I make to near the point of destruction. Then reassemble them.


Cemal Pulak, Associate Professor
Frederick R. Mayer Faculty Professor of Nautical Archaeology

George F. Bass, Professor Emeritus
Texas A&M University

Nautical Archaeology Program

Gwen Diehn, author
Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist & Turn: Books for Kids to Make


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