After my second week on site I feel a bit less dazed and confused by the layout, the routine, and the scope and direction of the project, and more able to focus on the conservation issues at hand. A good thing considering I have less than a week remaining to finish out the season! I continued with the projects I described in my last entry including the removal of the cotton gauze facing from the badly deteriorated limestone block with Montuemhat’s name on it now that it’s been moved to a nearby mastaba for permanent display.
I continued to treat and clean coins as well but also had the pleasure of cleaning this small bronze lion, about five centimeters in length, with crossed forepaws. Pictured on the right, I’m cleaning the recently discovered relief fragment with an image of Khonsu on it to help make the incised lines more legible.
Another new project was the cleaning and reconstruction of a low-fired ceramic storage vessel shown here before treatment, upside down and broken apart in fragments, and held together by the packed earth inside the vessel. I first removed the broken fragments from around the packed earth form and then carefully sifted through the earth, which yielded a few more ceramic fragments but unfortunately no hidden cache of coins or treasure. The ceramic fragments were then washed and spread out in the sun to dry, and in the picture on the right I’m sealing the edges of the fragments with a dilute solution of B-72 resin prior to joining the fragments with a thicker solution of the same resin. B-72 is a commonly used adhesive in ceramics restoration because of its stability and relative ease of reversibility.
A large limestone block made a convenient table for laying out the fragments prior to reassembly. Since I’ve been here I’ve definitely learned to improvise more with the tools at hand and finding available workspace. On the right, the reconstructed vessel is propped up in a tub of sand, and I’m placing one of the final existing pieces in place. About eighty percent of the vessel was found and reassembled which means it can be photographed and the form possibly identified and dated. Working outdoors (think occasional stiff breeze and blowing sand) is a little different than working in the clean, climate controlled museum lab that I’m used to, and I’m enjoying the challenge.
John is a conservator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts where his responsibilities include all aspects of the examination, preservation, and treatment of sculpture and decorative arts in the permanent collection, including Ancient, European, Asian, African, Oceanic, American, and Contemporary art. He received his M.A. in conservation from the State University College at Buffalo in 1990. His field experience has included the treatment of the limestone sculpture on the west front of Wells Cathedral in England, treatment of the sandstone frieze on Boston’s Trinity Church, and the restoration of ceramics excavated at the site of the former Chinese Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, China.