The conservation and resurrection of seven clay coffins from Nippur

Julia B. Lawson

Abstract

The collection of seven Assyrian, Seleucid, and Parthian clay coffins in the Near Eastern collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were excavated at the Mesopotamian site of Nippur in the late 19th century. They were restored shortly thereafter for display in the Museum’s Babylonian galleries where they remained until 1940, when reinstallations consigned the objects to sub-basement storage. They were largely forgotten and their physical condition gradually deteriorated. By the late 20th century, the original restorations were crumbling, the coffins were collapsing under their own weight and it was feared that soluble salts were greatly weakening the fabrics. An Institute of Museum and Library Services grant enabled the Conservation Laboratory to assess the condition of the objects, conduct treatment, and provide storage supports.

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