June 07, 2008


live blogging the UCLA/Getty Storage Symposium (part 5)

We caught a little bit of fresh air outside and we're back with Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati (Cal State Univ. Los Angeles) who talks about the 10,000+ artifacts and samples from the Tell Mozan (ancient Urkesh) excavation project in NE Syria. The project has lasted over 20 years now. They found a palace and more. The Syrian policy requires on-site storage of the archaeological materials... which by now is becoming really hard due to the quantity. The Syrian authorities recently requested the new finds to be sent to the museum in Deir el-Zor, awaiting the new provincial museum in Hassake being finished. They vacuum pack metal objects. They have a comprehensive html system cataloging and documenting all artifacts and features. They have set up an on-site ceramics library both displayed chronologically and stratigraphically. Last building they added is a metal-sheet and musbrick one to store the bulk of the finds (non-museum objects). They hope the new museum in Hassake will take them eventually.

Next, Molly Gleeson and Chris De Brer (UCLA/Getty) present a paper about Storage, Handling and access to Human Mummy Bundles, Tarapacá Valley Archaeological Project, Chile. How are human remains processed? They need to be available for research and possibly exhibition after first having been stabilized through minimal treatment and safely, securely stored. A local community center and school house them now, buildings that have withstood recent earthquakes. The environment inside the store rooms is being monitored and so far has stayed within reasonable boundaries (no actual equipment is available to ensure stability).

The final paper in this session was given by Vanessa Muros and Allison Lewis (UCLA/Getty), this time about the portable finds from the Lofkënd Archaeological Project in Albania. A multiple-burial tumulus from the Early Iron Age is being excavated. Some finds are dug out as a larger block of soil which is then excavated off-site. The dig house is in a former monastery in nearby Apollonia. The storage space is itself also being excavated by a French team and lacks environmental controls... Humidity fluctuates extremely. The roof leaks. Rodents are also a problem. Therefore, the care taken in the packing and storage of finds is very important. For instance, metal finds are placed in a polyethylene bag with silica gel. Some had to be stabilized first. After testing, it was obvious that humidity still remained a problem for the metal finds. Double-bagging is the latest approach. All labeling and conservation of the finds is checked regularly and problems corrected, e.g., adding an inside label to the one written on the polyethylene bags when observing that the outside, written labels became illegible at times. They are now trying to obtain a more appropriate storage space and are planning earthquake-preparedness measures. I asked about the security measures protecting the excavation site as there is quite some looting of sites attested in Albania. They said there's a guard and they haven't had any problems so far. Also, the monastery is well guarded. During the discussion time, a colleague advised that polyethylene does not keep out humidity and also allows inside condensation if you have large temperature swings. Ms. Muros said that expense is a major reason for using those type of bags. Other colleagues weighed in on this problem. I'll spare you the technical details but bags are definitely a concern.


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