Conservation treatment considerations for an Egyptian polychrome wood coffin

Linda S. Roundhill

Abstract

This paper outlines the investigations and ultimate treatment of an ancient Egyptian polychrome wood coffin owned by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (University of Washington, Seattle). Particularly of interest was discovering that the interior of the coffin appeared to have been previously treated with a carelessly applied dark orange lacquer resembling shellac. This darkened coating had obscured the painted design and it was feared that its further degradation would continue to jeopardize the remaining polychrome layers. Plans were considered for the removal of the coating, followed by the consolidation and stabilization of the coffin. After further investigation, however, it was discovered that the disfiguring resin had been applied by the coffin makers themselves, though the purpose it served remains uncertain. In conclusion, if a reasonable amount of precaution (in the form of study, careful examination and testing) had not been taken, the object’s integrity would have been seriously violated. The progress of the investigation is outlined, followed by the methods eventually developed and used for the cleaning and stabilization of this object.

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