Conservation and restoration of an Egyptian wooden human-like form coffin in Suez Museum

Abdel-Rahman el-Serogy and Abdel-Salam Eleasely

Abstract

This paper discusses the analysis, investigation, conservation, and restoration of a New Kingdom painted wooden coffin that is preserved in Suez Museum. The coffin is almost completely decorated with beautiful painting and inscriptions; the symbolic and symmetrical homogenous distribution of texts and painted illustrations will be discussed.

Analytical investigation of pigments, ground layer, and varnish, was done using SEM-EDS together with XRD and FTIR. A stereomicroscope equipped with computerized remotely-controlled digital camera was a useful tool to investigate the cross sections of pigments and ground layer of the coffin. Pigments found included malachite, gypsum, chrysocolla, hematite, goethite, and yellow ochre. Gypsum, mud, and clay were used as a ground layer. The same materials used for the ground layer were found mixed with animal glue and used as a stuffing material to fill in the gaps of the wooden structure. Two different types of wood were used to manufacture the coffin. One type of wood was used to make the body of the coffin; a different type was used for the tongue that fastens the cover over the coffin.

Conservation of painted wood has two main requirements. First is the preservation of the genuine colorants and the need to keep the original paints intact. Second is the restoration of losses and reattaching flaking layers to the ground layer. The condition of the wood and paint surface will be discussed. Treatment of separated paint layers and restoration of losses will be described. The coffin was brushed with antistatic brushes to remove the dust. Repair of the loose paint layers was accomplished with a 5% Paraloid B-72 in toluene. Fills were made with suitable stable linen fibers and Paraloid solution.