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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
Worked bone from the Macellum after treatment
Decorated metal tweezers from the Macellum after initial cleaning
Conservator Cavit Cesur using the microscope to clean small objects

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Small Finds Conservation: July 14-20, 2007

Conservators Emine Koçak (Ankara University), Nerina de Silva (University of London), and Melih Ekinci (Istanbul University) arrived on July 14, one week after the start of the excavations to find a newly painted lab to which we made a few changes, adding more shelves and getting our work benches altered to a "standard" height to suit both our shorter and taller conservators.

More than a hundred small finds, excluding bulk finds such as ceramic sherds, had been recovered from all of the seven sites currently being investigated and were awaiting conservation treatment. They included metals, glass, decorated ceramics, stone, detached wall plaster and worked bone. In the second week the quantity of finds sent to the lab had increased to close upon 300 bags; a lot of metal finds as well as much fragmentary glass being retrieved from the excavation of a dump on the Macellum site (see Macellum, July 8-12, 2007).

The aims of the conservation process were to stabilize the artifacts and minimize further deterioration, to enable their study by the various finds specialists, and to treat finds selected for Burdur Musuem to a displayable standard. The treatment processes included the removal of obscuring soil on all objects, calcareous deposits on ceramics and stone, and corrosion products on metal finds, to reveal the detail of the "original" surface including decoration, coatings, tool marks and other technological evidence. It also included joining of sherds of ceramics or glass to assist with typology studies; stabilization of ceramic objects by filling gaps with plaster or consolidating fragile surfaces and fabrics; stabilization of glass by consolidating surfaces or gap filling with resin; and chemical stabilization of all coins and of unstable copper alloys and of copper alloys selected for the Burdur Museum. It further includes making molds of coins and stamps on ceramics for numismatists and finds specialists; storing conserved finds appropriately to protect them from environmental factors contributing to their decay; and monitoring and recording the stability of metal finds from previous years and maintaining their desiccated (silica gel) environment.

This season's metal finds consisting of coins, copper alloy tweezers, an iron finger ring and key, and a lead object were cleaned mechanically, with scalpels and brushes, under stereo-magnification. The remaining metal finds, mainly nails and clamps, were dry-brushed and left to dry in trays.

Many vessel sherds with molded decoration, stamped tiles and other ceramic finds such as a soldier figurine were washed and obscuring calcareous deposits removed mechanically with hand tools.

Stone artifacts, both sculptural and architectural, were cleaned using a Plyno compressed steam cleaner to soften the calcareous deposits, which were then removed with hand tools.

Bone hair pins, a decorative fitting, and other finds were swabbed with a solution of ethanol and water. Of the other finds, three small cylindrical objects from the Domestic Area gave us all--archaeologists, conservators, archaeozoologist, archaeobotanist, geologists, and Depot Managers--something to puzzle about. The material they were made of provided more questions than answers, having both organic and inorganic features. Bea, our bone specialist, had the final say, identifying one of the three pieces as being possibly of dentalium, from the weird and wonderful world of molluscs.

Of the remaining finds, fragmentary plaster was dry-brushed and charcoal samples were repacked with acid-free tissue and twine; large quantities of glass shards await one of the conservators who joins the team next week.

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