Field Reports from the end of the 1999 Field Season
CONSERVATOR'S REPORT
Ellen Salzman, Mina Gregory, Andrew Fearon

Report 4: July 23


Mina Gregory consolidates a new bronze find.

As the progress of the excavation continues, a steady and increasingly full stream of objects passes through the doors of the Casa di Giotto conservation lab. We are just entering the phase towards the end of the dig when we begin to develop an accumulation of finds and must prioritize treatments based on needs of stabilization, identification, and importance to the archeological process. Fortunately, the objects not completely treated from last season seemed to fare the year quite well, so if full treatment of all objects is not possible before the end of the season, it will be possible to stabilize them for treatment next season.


Andrew Fearon cleans a stamped bucchero sherd.

Among the many new finds that are presently being treated are a number of interesting copper alloy objects, including a coin excavated from Trench 15 that appears to be of Roman date. The coin appears to have the image of a rooster on one side and the profile of a human face and helmet on the reverse. From Trench 14, a decorated copper alloy bead was cleaned, revealing an excellent state of preservation. Also from Trench 14 this week is a copper alloy stud with traces of a ferrous shank similar to two other studs excavated last season; one from Trench 1 and the other from Trench 8 which is embedded in a relatively well preserved piece of carbonized wood. All three of the studs are nearly identically in size and in good condition. As with the earlier two, the preferential corrosion of the iron on the stud from Trench 14 has left the copper alloy portion well-preserved. The remaining copper alloy currently under treatment ranges from the simple rounded slag to a finely articulated shell design fragment.


Fineware bowl subsequently lifted from Trench PF 2 by Ellen Salzman.

After anxiously awaiting the opportunity all season, the conservators were called up on site to carry out on-site conservation. Several fragile copper alloy objects were removed from trenches at the main site and we were also called on site to help lift two fineware bowls from Trench PF 2 because of their orientation and possible completeness. As previously discussed, the ceramics in this area quite consistently lose their surfaces during the course of excavation due to the soft and fragile nature of the ceramic and the hard clay consistency of the soil. Several techniques were tried during the course of removing these bowls to maintain the original surface, however none were entirely successful. Although the two bowls were removed with no excavation damage, a root system from nearby vegetation had already infiltrated the ceramic fabric, damaging the original surface. Further work is to be done in the hopes of devising a way to retain the original surfaces when possible for these ceramics coming out of Podere di Funghi.

In addition to the aforementioned activities in the field, a fairly large piece of carbonized wood was lifted from Trench 14. This carbon was located near the site of the carbonized wood with the stud found last season and not far from the copper alloy stud found this season. Although no details were immediately visible on the carbon from this season, there was some thought that another stud or a finished edge might be present. After pedestaling the area of dirt around the carbonized wood, it was supported with layers of cotton gauze and Acryloid B-72. Once fully supported, the carbon was lifted and will be more fully excavated at the lab in Casa di Giotto.


Conservator Ellen Salzman (always identified in the field by the hot pink hat) was called in for
the meticulous and delicate work of lifting a piece of carbonized wood from Trench 14.

Along with field work and treatments, this week we conducted a ceramics workshop for the undergraduate students. Due to the extreme fragility of the ceramics excavated on this site, the students have not been able to assist in the physical process of conservation. The purpose of the workshop was to provide them with the opportunity to learn how to find and adhere joins in an archival manner. In lieu of ancient ceramics, smashed modern flower pots provided excellent surrogates. Much care and enthusiasm in distressing the joins was supplied by many members of both the conservation and field staff, ensuring a sufficient level of difficulty for the students and more closely simulating actually excavated pottery. All of the students approached the challenge with a serious attitude of patience and problem solving. Although not all of the vessels were completed, the educational exercise will prove to be useful if the students are to continue in the field.


During the ceramics workshop, Kate Topper (left) pieced together a flower
pot that was incised, then broken and "weathered" by Jess Galloway (right).

Report 5: July 30

As the excavation comes to a close we are faced with a large amount of material that has arrived in the lab in the last week and a half or so. Since the influx of material is directly related to which strata contain more artifacts, this is not something which can be forestalled, although it has been anticipated. At present we are finishing as many of the key objects as possible and making sure that all of the rest are well stored and archived so that treatment next year should be straightforward. Mina and Ellen leave on Thursday, however, Andrew does not depart until the next day. He has graciously offered to do the inventory and pack up the lab after our departure, which leaves more time for treatment up until the last minute, so we are fairly optimistic.

Well, we must rush back to the lab to do as much as possible, so this is the conservators signing off for the season--it has been a great one.

 

Field Reports from the end of the 1999 Field Season

Director's Diary

Field Director's Diary

Trench PC 13

Trench PC 14

Trench PC 15

Trenches PC 16 & 17

Trench PC 18

Trenches PF 2 & PF 3

Student Diary

After December 2000, see the 1999 Annual Report for the season summary by Professor Gregory Warden.