Reconstruction of a Roman glass bottle from Egypt, with supportive Japanese tissue fills

By Kate Berlewen

Object UC.22661, after treatment.

This beautiful Roman glass bottle was excavated from an unknown site in Egypt by Flinders Petrie, or by one of the highly skilled and knowledgeable local men who worked on the dig sites he controlled, and is held in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology collection. The bottle was treated in the Institute of Archaeology conservation lab at least once before in 1975, before returning to us for retreatment in 2019.

Due to the lack of information about the excavation site and any contextual dating information, the bottle can only be roughly dated to somewhere between 100CE and 650CE (Davison, 2003, p19; Rossi, 2010, p406). The colouring of the glass was likely to be caused by small and deliberately added amounts of metal oxides such as copper oxide, or a combination of iron and magnesium oxides, both of which can cause a green colour when added during the melting process (Davison, 2003, p7).

The bottle before treatment, in 35 fragments.

When I received the bottle for treatment it was in 35 fragments. All the pieces had adhesive left on their edges from the previous conservation treatment, and some were still adhered to each other by the rapidly failing remnants of the old adhesive and strips of pressure sensitive adhesive tape. The adhesive was identified as HMG (cellulose nitrate) in the 1975 report, and I was able to confirm this through observation in a UV light source and solubility testing.

The old cellulose nitrate adhesive emitting characteristic fluorescence under a UV light source.

The first step in my treatment after initial examinations was to carefully remove all traces of this old adhesive without any unnecessary cleaning of the excavation dirt on the surface of the glass. Luckily the glass surface was relatively stable and, although fragile, did not require consolidation prior to handling. After the fragments were free of cellulose nitrate, the fragments were reconstructed into as complete a form as possible using Paraloid B-72 (ethyl methacrylate co-polymer) in acetone, applied with an extremely small sable brush.

In total all but ten fragments were reassembled, and these un-locatable fragments are most likely from the large area of the bottle that is lost. These have been repackaged and included with the reassembled bottle in clearly labelled packaging. The jigsaw puzzle of reconstruction took many, many days, and at least four of my fellow students in the lab came to see if they could re-locate any I had missed. In fact, my eternal gratitude is owed to Reed Hudson who located a key fragment which allowed me to place a further three more!

Anyone for a weeklong jigsaw puzzle made of 2,000-year-old glass? Just us?

Due to the vulnerability of the jagged edges of the reconstructed bottle and the thickness of the glass being less than a millimetre in some areas, I decided to attempt at least one supporting Japanese tissue paper fill. After this first support was placed, it was clear that the technique was highly suitable for supporting the fragments and the most vulnerable joins, and in total I created four support fills in this way.

The Japanese tissue was impregnated with Paraloid B-72 in acetone after being tinted with watercolour pigments to match the colour and markings on the glass. The tissue was tinted in this way because it was likely there would be some disparity between the textures and reflectiveness of the glass and the tissue, and so blending the colour would help this be less distracting to the viewer and make the overall form of the bottle more legible. I found that layering the tissue paper to four pieces thick gave suitable stability, and tearing the edges rather than cutting achieved better blending of the edges where they met the glass. Drying on a curved piece of silicon release paper also gave both shine and curve to the tissue, which could be exploited when adhering the fills to the curve of the glass.

The tinted and impregnated Japanese tissue after adhering in place.

It was important that the supportive fills had a translucency similar to the glass but with maximum support. Four layers of tissue achieved this, as demonstrated by the handle of this paintbrush held behind the fill and original glass.

I was inspired to try this technique by a previous blog from the UCL lab in 2015, describing a treatment for another archaeological glass bottle also from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology which is linked below (Williams, 2015). The bottle from the 2015 treatment was a greater state of deterioration than the bottle I treated, but the use of Japanese tissue as a supportive, strong, but translucent fill material still worked well. I hope you agree!

The glass bottle after treatment, from an angle showing all four of the tissue paper support fills, and the 10 unlocatable fragments.

Many thanks to UCL Culture, Petrie Museum of Archaeology who own this object and have given their kind permission for its treatment to be shared.

Sources:

Davison, S. (Ed.) (2003). Conservation and Restoration of Glass. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Rossi, C. (2010). ‘Science and Technology: Pharaonic’ in Alan B. Lloyd (Ed). (2010). A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. p390 – 408.

Williams, E. (2015). Japanese Tissue Paper – A Glass Puzzle from Tell Fara. Available at: https://uclconservation.wordpress.com/tag/japanese-tissue-paper/

Conserving Everyday Heritage (Repair Café I)

By Carmen Vida and Dean Sully –

Back in December 2017, we told you about how UCL Conservation staff and students had initiated the UCL Repair Café (When Heritage Mending Meets DIY Repair | Conservation Lab Chat (wordpress.com)). This coincided with BBC2 taking up the challenge of turning heritage repair into reality TV airing a new series, The Repair Shop, presented as ‘an antidote to throwaway culture’. The series has been a real success and ‘upgraded’ to BBC1 in 2019, and then to prime time in 2020. We think that it is no coincidence that our first UCL Repair Café and the BBC Repair Shop started at the same time. This could be symptomatic of a real need for people to actively participate in caring for their valued things. The gap that a broken object leaves in our lives can be bridged by its transformation through repair. As conservators, we are aware of the joy of transforming an object as part of our work, and it is great to able to find ways to share this joy with others.  So there are mutual benefits to people and their objects in the remaking of a broken thing, so that it can once again function as expected, or as hoped.

The Repair Café also reflects the many ways that people understand heritage, not simply as the application of the Authorised Heritage Discourse to the museum objects and heritage places of our professional practice, but as an intense an intimate engagement with the stuff of everyday life. This connects us to family, to loss, to memory, in the stories that we tell of ourselves and others, and in the value we place in certain objects and places.

A large UCL Repair Café took place on 28th March 2019, entitled “Fixing a Broken Britain by Mending Things”. This was run as part of UCL’s Centre for Critical Heritage Studies Showcase Week. The thought behind it? That in an uncertain world, it makes sense to be able to fix your own stuff.  That ‘Doing-it-Together’ is more productive than ‘Doing-it-Yourself’. That repair, conservation, maintenance, should not be afterthoughts, or the special treatment we give to a few precious designated objects, but rather a central principle of sustainability and of socially and ecologically just cycles of production and consumption. ‘to repair damaged places and make flourishing multi-species futures’ (Haraway 2016, 146).

28th March 2019: another busy Repair Café in the South Cloisters at UCL

Repair Cafés do not work in the way the Repair Shop is run: we do not want people to leave their object with an ‘expert’ for them to fix, rather we want the Café to be an playful opportunity for them to learn the skills required to care for their own valued things, however ordinary they may be. In doing so, it seeks to build capacity for people to care for their own heritage in their own ways.

The musical instruments repair station

The 2019 UCL Repair Café turned out to be a thought-provoking mix of DIY, fixing hacks, and conservation, with some of the boundaries around specialist knowledge becoming blurred. Textiles conservators and Stitch in Time sewing experts, for instance, were in tables side by side, sharing practical knowledge and working with people to repair their clothes and textiles. Two different approaches that hopefully enriched each other over the few hours they worked together (there was a lot of mutual tool envy!). The juxtaposition of repair and conservation activities reveals the boundaries between everyday and heritage, to be arbitrary.

Textile Conservators and Stitch in Time sat side by side, with a very clear line of Hazard Tape marking the arbitrary distinction between Conservation and ‘the real world’

Our UCL Repair Cafés (and the popularity of the Repair Shop) highlight that although we often act as if heritage is about the past, it is really about the present and the future.  As a vehicle for sharing conservators’ skills, our Repair Café events have provided opportunities to embed our practice within the actions required for living as-well-as-possible in preferred future, more-than-human worlds. This aligns caring for heritage as an innovative response to contemporary challenges and opportunities for diverse sustainable innovation.

And talking of present and future… Our plans were for another Repair Café with conservators on site in 2020, but then 2020 “happened” and became 2021, and plans got postponed. A new Repair Café will take place once it becomes possible, so in the meantime, we have decided to dedicate a few blogs to heritage repairs and kitchen sink conservation: there may be things there that you feel you can try with some object at home that needs to be mended (disclaimer: at your own risk!).

We are hoping to deliver online Repair Cafés, and we would like to have your suggestions for what should be included. Do you have any favourite repair ‘recipes’ that could be done at home? We would like to add yours to some of ours (Kintsugi, casein-porcelain repairs, Boro, maintainsplaining, etc.)

Researching and treating some cartonnage foot cases from the Egypt Exploration Society

By Olivia O’Dwyer

This year UCL Conservation has embarked on an exciting new collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society (EES). MSc students will be working on five cartonnage foot cases from the society’s collection as part of their study of conservation methods for organic materials.      

Figure 1. Cartonnage masks and foot cases photographed in the Faiyum, el-Hibeh or Oxyrhynchus. Egypt Exploration Society Flickr GR.NEG.056

What is cartonnage?

Cartonnage is a sort of Ancient Egyptian papier-mâché. Cartonnage objects were formed over a core from layered linen and papyrus and covered in gesso in preparation for painted decoration. Cartonnage was used for the inner cases of elite coffins in the early Middle Kingdom (2025-1700 BC) and Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BC), but by the Late Period (644-525 BC) the practice had fallen out of fashion. Cartonnage technology was employed again during the Greco-Roman Period, referring to the period of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt (323-30 BC) as well as that following Emperor Augustus’ invasion of Egypt in 30 BC. The Roman Pharaoh’s reign coincided with a change in how cartonnage was made, where the papyrus used to construct cartonnage objects was no longer sourced from recycled documents.

The foot cases currently at the UCL conservation labs were most likely excavated in the Faiyum, el-Hibeh or Oxyrhynchus at some point between 1896 – 1907. After excavation, the objects were packaged and padded using local sheep’s wool, and removed from Egypt with the intention of extracting their papyrus substrate for translation by Western papyrologists. The collection, which includes gilded cartonnage mummy masks and mummified crocodiles, has been left largely untouched for over one hundred years.

What is our role as conservators?

Cartonnage is an understudied material. It is our hope that the conservation treatments of these objects will aid further research, both through the conservation process and by facilitating future access.

The foot cases exhibit a myriad of condition issues, including powdering and cracking paint, delaminating layers, and splits and deformations. Ink markings are visible on underlying papyrus layers in areas of damage, suggesting that the objects were made before 30BC. We know that the cases were painted with the pigment Egyptian blue, which has a characteristic fluorescence when imaged using a 950nm infrared digital camera filter.

During lockdown the cartonnage team started experimenting with the working properties of various starches and cellulose-derived adhesives. We also made our own replica foot cases in order to approach the challenges of backing and clamping splits on an object of similar shape and fragile, laminate structure. Now that we have returned to the UCL labs, we look forward to continuing our investigation and treatment of this fascinating material.

Who are the EES?

Based in London and Cairo, the EES supports the preservation of Egyptian heritage through research, publication and training. The institution was founded in 1882 by Amelia Edwards (1831 – 1892) and Reginald Stuart Poole (1832 – 1895), with a view to supporting British archaeology in Egypt.

In 1888 Flinders Petrie (1853 – 1942), UCL’s first Edwards Chair in Egyptian Archaeology and Philology, excavated the cemeteries at Hawara on behalf of private patrons. Petrie found cartonnage mummy cases from the Greco-Roman period as well as papyri and portraits painted in pigmented wax (the Faiyum portraits). In a move to investigate these later periods of Egyptian history (anything after the Pharonic period was, and still is, considered late) the Greco-Roman branch of the EES was established in 1897. The branch supported the work of papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell (1869 – 1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871 – 1934). Grenfell and Hunt excavated sites around the Faiyum area, most famously Oxyrhynchus, ‘The City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish’, whose rubbish dumps yielded vast amounts of papyri. These documents—letters, edicts, receipts and poems written in a range of languages from Greek to Aramaic—are still being published today.

The Nile Delta excavations are closely linked to the Christian identity of the British Empire. Grenfell and Hunt garnered the financial support of senior bishops and caught the imagination of the public with the excavation of the ‘Logia’, or sayings of Jesus from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. The early Christian text began the Oxyrhynchus papyrus archive as P.Oxy.1.1.

The EES archives also include lantern slides, photographs and diary entries. The collection documents British excavations in Egypt, and crucially, the historically unacknowledged work of Egyptian archaeologists without whose expertise and labour the excavations would not have been possible.

Throughout lockdown the EES provided a programme of webinars on a range of subjects from Egyptian obelisks in Rome (Dr Luigi Prada, University of Oxford) to the racist and supremacist origins of Egyptology in the West (Dr Heba Abd el Gawad, Durham University). The programme is ongoing, and more information can be found on the EES events page: https://www.ees.ac.uk/Pages/Events/Category/events.

               

                 

Photogrammetry in Conservation – An Opportunity to Work Digitally in the Age of Social Distancing

By Reed Hudson

Having recently returned to the lab with new safety protocols in place, the MSc 1 students are back to focusing on object treatments. This is not to say that everything is entirely back to normal, however. Finding ways to continue our learning while in lockdown over the past few months required a reconceptualization of what conservation work entails, and we continue to expand on this shift in thinking as we plan for the possibility of more remote work in the future. In some cases, this has meant renewing our focus on projects that take a digital approach to conservation.

Over the course of the past year, several MSc 1 students have been collaborating with the Collections Department at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to create a 3D photogrammetric model of Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural Great Model. Currently displayed in the Trophy Room of the Cathedral, the Great Model was built in 1674 from oak, limewood, and plaster following an early design of Wren’s. At a scale of 1:25, the Great Model was made to be large enough that it could be displayed at eye level, so that a visitor could enter the model and appreciate the decorated interior from below!

Figure 1: MSc 1 students documenting the windows in the Great Model during a photographic campaign in November 2019.

The project to document the Great Model through photogrammetry began as a dissertation topic for two students in the MA Principles of Conservation program and has expanded into an ongoing learning opportunity thanks to the support and enthusiasm of the Collections team at St. Paul’s. The project also benefits from collaboration with the Digital Heritage Lab at the Institute of Archeology. The initial goal of the project was to learn what processes and resources are involved in creating a photogrammetric model and whether the end products could be used in conservation for documentation and condition monitoring. As part of this study, students have undertaken multiple photographic campaigns at St. Paul’s in order to gauge the effect different techniques and conditions would have on the resulting 3D models. They were also given access to past treatment and condition reports, along with archival photos of the Great Model in its various storage and display locations over the years in order to compare these records to the current condition.

Multiple photogrammetric models have now been generated from the images collected, several of which contain enough detail to allow a virtual walk around the Model. The quest to create a 3D model with a sufficient level of detail to act as a tool for condition monitoring continues, however. As the project grows, we hope that we will be able to refine the results and establish a simple and replicable workflow which will allow the generation of multiple, comparable 3D models that can be used to monitor changes in the Great Model over time.

Figure 2: Two stages of one of the first photogrammetric models produced, with a wire frame model on the left and a more detailed, textured mesh model on the right.

A poster on this project detailing the work that has been done, as well as the ongoing developments in the 3D models produced, will be presented at the ICOM-CC Triennial in Beijing, scheduled for May 2021.

You can keep up to date with St Paul’s Cathedral on twitter and instagram.

UCL MSc Conservation project presented as poster at Microbiology@UCL 2020 Symposium

By Kate Berlewen

Berlewen, K. (2020). Conservation of Corroded Archeological Iron: Proposed Model for Microbiological Treatment of a Medieval Axe from Norfolk. [Poster]. Exhibited at Microbiology@UCL 2020 Symposium. Online, 27-28th July.

I was delighted to be asked to present a poster at the Microbiology@UCL Symposium in July 2020, on ‘Conservation of corroded archeological iron: Proposed model for microbiological treatment of a medieval axe from Norfolk’. The poster summarised my investigation into the potential applications of new microbiological treatments for corroded ironwork, and whether they would be suitable to treat a case study object taken from my assigned lab work this year, a corroded iron axe from Norfolk. These treatments are particularly interesting as they have the potential to allow conservators to work with iron in a more sustainable and non-labour intensive way, and utilise bio-gel application methods to reduce solvent waste.

The axe is an intersection of two of my research interests, the material culture of Medieval England and also archaeometallurgy, so I knew I would love treating and researching the object. I also have personal connections with Norfolk and the Norfolk Museums Service, having volunteered there before moving to London to start studying at UCL in 2018. The axe will be going on display at the Norwich Castle Keep museum following their major Heritage Lottery Funded renovation project ‘Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England’. If microbiological treatment is applied to the axe then this will be a great way to engage visitors with surprising ‘behind the scenes’ conservation processes, as well as increasing microbiological literacy for the public.

My research has so far included extensive literature reviews, ‘thought experiment’ style methodology, and lots of comparative discussion of the potential results of these new treatments with the known results of traditional and established iron treatments. Everyone involved in the project so far is hoping that the theory will go on to be tested physically, and that the axe will become the focus of practical experimental treatments with microbiological agents once UCL labs are opening back up for projects following conclusions of essential COVID-19 research.

You can follow the Microbiology@UCL Domain on their website and twitter, and keep up with Kate on Research Gate.

If you are interested in reading more about the testing that has been done so far on microbiological treatments of archaeological ironwork, many of the papers included in the references section below are available online.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the Norfolk Museums Service for providing us with such fantastic learning objects to treat this year, and especially Debbie Harris who has been so supportive of my non-traditional approach, and Dr China Hanson of the Microbiology@UCL research domain who has been so helpful in pointing out some of the practical aspects required for physical testing of the treatments, and also organised the excellent symposium in July. I would also like to thank Jill Saunders, who told our class about the research being done on microbiological treatments after seeing them presented at the ICON Metals 2019 conference – otherwise I wouldn’t have known about this exciting work!

References

Comensoli, L., Bindschedler, S., Junier, P., & Joseph, E. (2017a). ‘Iron and Fungal Physiology, A Review of Biotechnological Opportunities’. Advances in Applied Microbiology, 98, 31-60. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0065216416301265?via%3Dihub (Accessed 13/02/2020).

Comensoli, L., Kooli, W., Monachon, M., Albini, M., Junier, P, & Joseph, E. (2019). ‘The Potential of Microbes for the Conservation-Restoration of Iron Artworks’. In: Chemello C., Brambilla, L., and Joseph, E. (eds.), Metal 2019 Proceedings of the Interim Meeting of the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group, September 2-6 2019, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 242-249.

Comensoli, L., Maillard, J., Albini, M., Sandoz, F., Junier, P., & Joseph, E. (2017b). ‘Use of Bacteria to Stabilize Archaeological Iron’. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 83:9. Available at: https://aem.asm.org/content/83/9/e03478-16 (Accessed 13/02/2020).

Joseph, E., Job, D., Junier, P, Wörle, M. (2013). ‘MAIA: Microbes for Archaeological Iron Artefacts’. In In: Crawford, J., & Bouchard, M. (Eds.) BROMEC 34; Bulletin of Research on Metal Conservation, 5. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260453189_MAIA_Microbes_for_Archaeological_Iron_Artefacts (Accessed 13/02/2020).

Kooli. W. M., Comensoli, L., Maillard, J., Albini, M., Gelb, A., Junier, P. & Joseph, E. (2018). ‘Bacterial Iron Reduction and Biogenic Mineral Formation for the Stabilisation of Corroded Iron Objects’. Scientific Reports, 8. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-19020-3 (Accessed 13/02/2020).

Kooli, W. M., Junier, T., Shakya, M., Monachon, M., Davenport, K. W., Vaideeswaran, K., Vernudachi, A., Marozau, I., Monrouzeau, T., Gleasner, C. D., McMurry, K., Lienhard, R., Rufener, L., Perret, J-L., Sereda, O., Chain, P. S., Joseph, E., & Junier, P. (2019). ‘Remedial Treatment of Corroded Iron Objects by Environmental Aeromonas Isolates’. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 85:3, 1-17. Available at: https://aem.asm.org/content/85/3/e02042-18 (Accessed 13/02/2020)

The Case of the Missing Biros

By Dean Sully

After receiving my much valued Christmas present of personalised Biros (thanks MSc 1 students) (See Figure 1), I have been increasingly anxious about the gradual depletion in my pen stocks (especially at this difficult time when the supplies of Biros may be subject to supply constraints).

IMG_0554

Figure 1. Biros painstakingly personalised by the MSc1 students, who clearly don’t have assignments that are hard enough and have far too much free time.

I was troubled therefore to come across the work of Veet Voojagig, in Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 1978, BBC Radio 4 programme (available on BBC Sounds, something to cheer you up during our splendid isolations).

Veet Voojagig, a quiet young student at the University of Maximegalon, pursued a brilliant academic career studying ancient philology, transformation ethics, and the wave harmonic theory of radical perception. However, after a night of drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox, he became increasingly obsessed with the problem of what happened to all the Biros he had bought over the past few years. There followed a long period of painstaking research during which he visited all the major centres of Biro loss throughout the Galaxy and eventually produced a theory that caught the public imagination at the time: Somewhere in the cosmos, he said, along with all the planets inhabited by humanoids, reptiloid, fishoids, walking treeoids, super intelligent shades of the colour blue, there was also a planet entirely giving over to Biro life forms. It was to this planet that unattended Biros would make their way, slipping quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely biroid life style, responding to highly biro oriented stimuli, leading the Biro equivalent of the good life.

As theories go, this was all very fine and pleasant, until Veet Voojagig suddenly claimed to have found this planet and to have worked there for a while driving a limousine for a family of cheap green retractables. When one day and expedition was sent to the spatial coordinates that was claimed for this planet, they discovered only a small asteroid occupied by a solitary old man, who claimed repeatedly that nothing was true, although he was later found to be lying.

If any of my personalised biros show up with you, please let me know so that we can put this this lie to the test of a forensic scrutiny of the facts! Maybe an idea for a Dissertation topic next year!

Term 2 projects and updates!

We are now three weeks through Term 2 and are all getting well stuck in to our many object treatments now that we have built up our skills and confidence. We still have several objects left to be allocated before we have our full set that we will keep working on until the end of the Summer term.

Yesterday we had a fantastic lecture from Professor Paul Basu of the Museum Affordances [Re:] Entanglements project, which you can find out more about by clicking this link. You can also read a great blog about the UCL Conservation involvement with the project so far by clicking here.

We also have a new staff member in the lab who we are learning so much from already. Jill Saunders has recently joined UCL as a teaching fellow, and is working with the MSc students in the lab and also the MA Principles of Conservation students. Jill graduated from the MSc in 2012, and also has a PhD in conservation science from UCL.

We can’t wait to share more of our progress with you on the blog and also on our social media. Keep an eye out for our stories and our #featurefriday posts every week of term on our instagram @uclconservation!

Students support Trowel Blazers Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

By Kate Berlewen

Students from the MSc have been supporting the 2019 Trowel Blazers Edit-a-thon today, writing women back into science and history. The history of archaeological conservation is full of women. Many of these Trowel Blazers are celebrated and highlighted at the Institute of Archaeology, but it is vital that women in Archaeology, science, and all disciplines are better represented.

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From the Trowel Blazers team, Dr Jess Wade, the IoA’s own Dr Katie Meheaux, and Richard Nevell from the Wikimedia Foundation, we learned about the power and reach Wikipedia has. Wikipedia is used in schools, workplaces, and even in some undergraduate academic programmes. Wikipedia is also often the first source for journalists, producers, and other influential content creators to research key experts and theories in scientific fields. We also learned that due to  90% of Wikipedia editors being male, the majority of pages created are for male experts, particularly in the field of science. This means that the vast majority of experts who will be contacted to be consulted or appear in articles, news broadcasts, and other forms of media, will be male. This leads to a cycle of perpetuation of lack of female representation, and misrepresentation of female excellence.

That is where Editathons and continued action using the tools we learned today will cause vitally important shifts in representation on Wikipedia, and therefore in media and academic representation. So far today 165 articles have been edited, and over 7,910 words have been written by the Trowel Blazers 2019 Editors, with more to come.

Check out the #TBWiki2019 hashtag on Twitter and follow @TrowelBlazers for updates on future Editathons and events.

Class of 2021

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It is the end of the first half of term one and we are starting to feel settled into the lab at the IoA! We have our first two objects allocated – both ceramics – and are finally starting to know where things are kept in the many, many cupboards. We have established an excellent afternoon tea break routine, and have mid-lecture break runs to the coffee shop down to 3 minutes 25 seconds. Priorities.

We all come to the MSc from a fantastic array of backgrounds and you can read more about us on the authors page. Our teamwork is already paying off, with everyone sharing skills, moral support, and lab maintenance.

We really look forward to sharing what we get up to in the lab and in the field! Check out our progress through the year on the UCL Conservation Instagram , Twitter, and Facebook and if you want to find out more about the programme click here.

A Bronze Hercules from Suffolk

65304022_382340765806946_3527477698429452288_nCarla Russo is a first-year MSc student from Argentina. Her background is in Economics and Finance before eventually following her call and getting a degree in Classical Archaeology. She is very interested in cultural heritage and archaeological material, which led to her pursue of the MSc degree in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums at UCL. (Text by Carla Russo)

In January of 2019 fragments of copper-alloy armour were found via metal detector in southeast Suffolk (figure 1-2). The bronze fragments were reported to the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, which carried out an excavation of the site with the finders and retrieved the fragments. Following conservation treatment, the objects will be donated to a public institution of the landowner and finder’s choice.

1Figure 1. Copper-alloy armour fragments found in Suffolk via metal detector (before conservation treatment).

2Figure 2. Copper-alloy armour fragments found in Suffolk via metal detector (before conservation treatment).

When they arrived at the conservation laboratory at UCL, the fragments were covered in soil and it was not known how many pieces there were in total (figure 3-5). The fragments were bent and scratched in multiple areas, presumably as they were found unstratified in the plough soil, having been disturbed from their context by agriculture. All the pieces were micro-excavated carefully and documented, as this was a fresh archaeological discovery. The fragments were in need of first aid conservation, meaning that they had to be retrieved from the soil, cleaned and stabilized (figure 6-7).

3Figure 3. Large copper-alloy armour fragment in original soil.

4Figure 4. Initial digital documentation of large copper-alloy armour fragment in original soil.

5Figure 5. Large copper-alloy armour fragment in original soil.

There were three large fragments which had depictions of a male torso holding a club, a head and a lion’s face, the combined pieces being a representation of Hercules. It was probably from a highly decorated piece of armour, perhaps part of a chamfron that protected a cavalry horse’s head. This is a very unusual item find in Britain.

6Figure 6. Large copper-alloy armour fragment depicting a male torso with a club after initial cleaning.

7Figure 7. Copper-alloy armour fragment depicting a male head during cleaning process.

The pieces were cleaned using a variety of tools, including brushes and cotton swabs to ensure all the dirt and corrosion was removed successfully (figure 8).

The object was returned to Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, where future work on the fragments includes illustration and potentially photogrammetry, to reconstruct the object digitally, and 3D printing of some of the pieces.

8Figure 8. Copper-alloy armour fragments after conservation treatment.

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