Conservation and restoration under field conditions: Ceramics treatment at Sardis, Turkey

Tony Sigel and Stephen P. Koob


During the course of two field seasons at the archaeological excavations at Sardis, Turkey, ceramics from the Lydian empire dating to 546 B.C. were treated, including a group destined for exhibition at the regional archaeological museum. Working out of doors, with extremes of temperature and limitations in resources, encouraged innovations in technique, use of materials, and methods of work. The principle of using only stable, easily reversible and well understood materials was followed. Combinations of materials which may interact poorly in the future were avoided, and previously treated ceramics requiring re-treatment were examined in this light. This paper describes in detail the techniques for conservation and restoration employed on site with an emphasis on simplicity and improvisation. The use, behavior and idiosyncrasies of materials are discussed as well as adjusting for, and taking advantage of, environmental conditions. Topics include cleaning, desalination, consolidation, reversing earlier treatment, adhesive preparation, assembly, loss compensation strategies, molding and fill materials and their use in structural and detachable fills. Emphasis is placed on the correct uses of plaster of Paris, and plasticine as a molding material. Shaping and finishing techniques are discussed along with variations in restoration styles. Inpainting methods and materials are also described.

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