Conservation work in the field

     As already mentioned above, the conservator must always be ready to go and work in the field when it is necessary. The most common case is that of a delicate find, normally an unbaked clay piece or a metal object, that for its particular condition cannot be excavated like the rest of the finds. It needs special handling, consisting in the consolidation of the material and the subsequential lifting from the ground in a larger lump.

     There can be cases were the piece is quite large, fractured but held together by the soil; in such a circumstance the find must be excavated only to a certain extent, and then the object with the matrix of soil around it must be taken in one block to the laboratory for conservation. This was the case of a bronze container, found in the 2001 season. It was shaped as a bucket, was found near a burial, above a female skeleton that had silver round earrings by the head. Although the connection of the bucket to the burial is not certain in terms of stratigraphy, it is likely. The bronze vessel was all cracked but held together by the soil. Several roots, passing through the object, had contributed to the damage. The rim was missing in part; originally there was probably a handle but not necessarily of bronze. The piece was excavated with a block of soil around it because it appeared from the beginning to be a long and delicate treatment. The work of micro-excavation was partially carried out by Beatrice Angeli and her students in that same season, but it will be a long term project since the bucket appeared to be completely fractured, and the bronze is very corroded (W14c7112 V14d7576-89).

     In the 1999 season there was another notable case where the conservator had to work together with the excavators in the field: the find of a chache of seal impressions of great importance that were excavated at the very end of the season. Many of the clay impressions were brittle and about to disintegrate, and the conservator had to stabilize the material in order to make possible its removal from the ground in one piece.

      There can be cases in which the work of the conservator is not only adressed to conservation, but his or her job could be auxiliary to the documentation of some aspects of the site. Also in 1999, for instance, in the lower courtyard of the palace, a platform of baked bricks was found next to a doorjamb . Considering that the use of baked brick is rare in the palace, the platform needed to be studied with particular care: its interpretation could lead to a better understanding of that part of the palace, where some ceremonial rooms could be expected. As I was called to provide advice, I suggested to wash the bricks with water and brushes in order to see their original color; this was promptly done with the help of two local workmen and the result was surprising because the bricks turned out to be very colorful, with two sequences of hues, the first ranging from light yellow-ocher to orange-pink to brick red, the second greenish to gray (V12d2712). Even within the same brick we could notice different colors; it is difficult to determine whether this effect had been intentional and was caused during the firing, or if it had been accidental. In any case, the washing of the platform turned out to be a great oppotunity to photograph it, as after it dried out all the beautiful color effects were gone (V12d1907). In this case the work of the conservator was secondary, it was simply to wash the platform to prepare it for the photograph, but it was an engaging contribution to the site's documentation.

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Copyright 2003 S. Bonetti