Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Field Conservation at Kaman

The conservators at the JIAA play many roles, performing in-lab treatments on metal objects, monitoring the environment of artifact storage units, and carrying out technical research relating to excavations and finds at Kaman-Kalehöyük. Conservators are also called out to the field to assist archaeologists with the excavation, stabilization and lifting of fragile artifacts and materials. Last week Lucy Skinner, Melissa Mariano, Elçin Bas, Corinna Koch Dandolo and Carrie Roberts took part in a day of field conservation, during which we lifted a large ceramic vessel and fragile charred wood, among other materials.

The artifacts took up most of the floor space inside of a narrow pit, so we took time to consider in what order the items should be lifted. Lucy started by placing aluminum foil over a piece of charred branch, followed by strips of plaster bandages. While this dried Melissa, Corinna and Carrie excavated around the large ceramic vessel so that medical bandages could be wrapped around it. The bandages provided extra support to the object as it was lifted, as did the compacted soil that was left inside the vessel. The ceramic was placed in a padded tray and tied down so it could be transported to the lab. Inside we found pottery sherds, animal bones, and charred plant material, along with the soil.

Corinna and I were given the task of lifting the charred wood branch. This proved difficult since there was so little space around the object to insert a rigid support underneath it. We figured out that cutting the rims off polyethylene box lids could create supports with just the right amount of flexibility to work the material under the artifact. Once this was done we slowly turned the artifact over onto its back, and lifted it into a waiting box. It was a successful day in the field and a great learning experience for the conservation interns.