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Friday, May 31 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Research and Technical Studies) Examination, Technical Study and Treatment of Funerary Stelae from the Roman-Egyptian Site of Terenouthis

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This paper describes the examination, technical study and treatment of a group of limestone funerary stelae from the Graeco-Roman Egyptian city of Terenouthis. Excavated in 1935 by the University of Michigan, the necropolis of Terenouthis yielded hundreds of tombs, each adorned with a limestone grave marker, or stela. Each stela was carved with a figure of the deceased, a Greek inscription of their name, and Pharaonic deities and symbols. Approximately two hundred of these objects were brought to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology following the University’s single excavation season at Terenouthis. Today, the stelae continue to serve as important sources of information to students and scholars and some are featured in the Museum’s new exhibit wing.

A recent condition survey of the stelae collection found that the artifacts have undergone significant deterioration since their arrival at the University over 75 years ago. Stone delamination, surface powdering, biological staining, and a peeling, darkened coating – originally applied to help preserve the stelae – were observed. A study was carried out in order to identify the agents of deterioration and develop a protocol for treatment and long-term preservation. The aim was to understand the factors involved in the stelae’s complex, interrelated deterioration phenomena. Initial examination and spot tests yielded important information, pointing to the actions of soluble salts, biofilms, and an aging nitrocellulose coating.

These observations were confirmed by chemical and instrumental analysis conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the mycology and electron microbeam analysis laboratories of the University of Michigan. Analytical techniques including Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), X-ray diffraction (XRD), specimen culturing and DNA analysis were used to confirm the presence of soluble salts, characterize the stone, and determine the exact nature of the biological growths seen on many stelae. XRF and XRD analysis were also used to characterize traces of polychromy, including the green earth mineral celadonite, a pigment not often observed in Egyptian art.

A contingency-based treatment protocol was designed to address identified condition issues, with the understanding that each stela is affected to varying degrees by the observed forms of deterioration. The protocol includes recommendations for stone consolidation and structural stabilization, poultice desalination, coating reduction, and biostain reduction. In an effort to use materials that are compatible with the limestone, consolidation was carried out using calcium hydroxide nanoparticles (CaLoSil®) in n-propanol. Environmental parameters have been developed based on the equilibrium relative humidities of salts that were characterized, and on environmental monitoring data from the stelae’s climate-controlled storage and display spaces.

This project, which developed a flexible plan to preserve a large collection of artifacts and incorporated materials and techniques used in non-objects specializations, represents a contemporary, collaborative conservation approach – one that makes the best use of limited resources and looks to professional allies for ideas and support.

avatar for Cathy Selvius DeRoo

Cathy Selvius DeRoo

Research Scientist, Detroit Institute of Arts
Cathy Selvius DeRoo is the Conservation Scientist at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and was the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship in biophysics. In addition to conducting analyses of the wide... Read More →
avatar for LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

Assistant Conservator, Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
LeeAnn is currently an objects conservator at the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and is also a Consultant for ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives. She earned her graduate degree from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and has... Read More →
avatar for Caroline I. Roberts

Caroline I. Roberts

Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
Caroline Roberts is an objects conservator and a graduate of the Winterthur / University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. As a graduate fellow, Carrie held internships at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the UK preservation organization English Heritage, and the... Read More →

Friday May 31, 2013 10:30am - 11:00am EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom A-B 19 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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