“Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?” – Identifying mystery fibers in the field

When conservators are working on archaeological excavations, their work often encompasses many different aspects of field conservation.  This can include materials identification and characterization, lifting fragile artifacts and aiding in archaeological research.  No matter what facet of the project they are involved in, the work can be challenging without the comforts of a well-stocked lab and requires lots of problem solving and improvisation. (continue reading)



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To microwave, or use the stove top: that is the question…when making wheat starch paste

“Two weeks ago paper conservator Christel Pesme lectured in the organic materials conservation course (CAEM 238) on some basics of paper conservation. After going over the history of paper making and agents of deterioration, Christel talked to us about repairing tears and spent the afternoon showing us how to make wheat starch paste, one of the preferred adhesives for these types of mends.” (continue reading)



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How do you mount several tiny samples together?…..Very carefully!

We are all aware of how difficult it is to be able to take a sample from an artifact (both permission-wise and logistically) and when we need to, more often than not, the samples we take are extremely small.  Once we have our precious sample, we try to use as many examination and analytical techniques we can that are non-destructive to get the greatest amount of information from that one sample.  We may reach the point, however, where we need to use an analytical technique that may require the sample to be mounted, cut up or consumed, and we need to find ways to have the samples extend as far as possible through all the stages of investigation. (continue reading)


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Summering in northern highland Ecuador

As an archaeological conservator, I often have the opportunity to work in the field and conserve objects on an excavation. This summer I returned to norther Ecuador, where I worked in 2009, to be the conservator for the Pambamarca Archaeological Project.  I wrote up a short post on some of the work I did there this summer for the project “Day of Archaeology” (this is a blog where archaeologists or people working with archaeological material write posts on what they spend their day doing) if you want to see some of what I did this summer and learn about what an archaeological conservator does on site.



One of my projects this summer (pictured here) was to continue the reconstruction of a red aribalo (a ceramic vessel used to hold liquids) that was excavated and partially treated in 2009. Here I am working on the area of the rim and neck to adjust misaligned joins. The vessel form is Incan, but the surface treatment and some other characteristics are not. It is thought that perhaps this is a hybrid form of an aribalo which combines styles from the Inca, who conquered the area in the 1500’s, and the local indigenous populations, known as the Cayambes.


Powdery Paint Consolidation Part I: Setting up an Ultrasonic Humidifier and Nebulizer

…or more aptly titled “The trials and tribulations of how to set up this equipment and only get two seconds of a consolidation mist before it all goes wrong”…(continue reading)



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