Beyond the field lab: Emergency conservation in the Granicus River Valley in northwest Turkey

Donna Strahan

Abstract

Over the past fifteen years, field conservators at the archaeological excavation of Troy, Turkey have been asked to provide emergency conservation on freshly looted tomb material from the region of the Granicus River Valley. This area in northwest Turkey was controlled by both the Greeks and Persians during the first millennium BCE. Looting became increasingly rampant due to the gold and silver objects still present in many of the tomb mounds. The regional Çanakkale Archaeological Museum does not have conservators on staff, thus when tomb looters were caught, the material they were robbing was often left in a precarious condition. The Director and archaeologists of the museum turned to the nearby Troy excavation conservators to assist them. In their haste to retrieve the precious objects, the looters damaged the less valuable material leaving destruction in their path. Examples to be discussed will include a tomb with painted marble beds, exploded ivory, and disintegrated wood furniture; a superbly painted sarcophagus that was opened with a backhoe; a burial’s funeral cart; and the material in a child’s sarcophagus. This cooperation between the foreign excavators and local archaeologists allowed important cultural property to be preserved and published. The museum has added an additional room to display the sarcophagi and painted marble beds. This paper will discuss some of the treatment difficulties and accessibility to the material in storage.