Conservation of an Egyptian limestone stela

Virginia Greene and Tamsen Fuller

Abstract

An Egyptian limestone stela from the site of Abydos was damaged while being returned from an overseas loan. The stela, over a meter high including the base, had been previously repaired, and the problem was eventually determined to be a combination of inadequate repairs and inadequate case design.

The stela separated horizontally into two major pieces and a very large number of minor fragments. Much of the breakage was along previous joins. The size and weight of the stela (which is set into a concrete base) necessitated the use of a tripod and winch to replace the top half on the bottom. Decisions about the conservation treatment also involved ethical issues, including placement of temporary support pins into the sides, and drilling through the top to insert new dowels.

The paper will discuss the causes of the damage, the technical and ethical problems involved in the treatment, and the details of the repair, filling, and cleaning of the stela.