Summaries of recent events and seminars
The Icon Archaeology Group runs a varied programme of conferences, seminars and events in a variety of locations.
The Archaeology Group 2022 AGM was followed by a series of presentations focusing on the conservation of archaeological glass.
We were delighted to welcome the following speakers:
The event was reviewed in Icon News (102).
A lunchtime lecture was held on 17 March 2022 on the conservation of the Galloway Hoard, Scotland’s earliest Viking-age hoard, found in 2014. After extensive research and conservation work on the hoard, it now forms part of a focused exhibition, currently on tour in Scotland. It was a true conservation challenge, comprising a wide range of material (glass; rock crystal and other minerals; mineral preserved organics) in addition to precious metals. The lecture was given by Martin Goldberg (curator) and Mary Davis (conservator).
A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue100 (p. 4) here.
A lunchtime lecture was held on 24 February 2022 on the Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition and research programme, a partnership between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Regional Museum of Local History in East Kazakhstan. The exhibition explored the rich culture of the Saka people of Iron Age Kazakhstan. Susi Pancaldo, liaison conservator, discussed the challenges of an exhibition with over 370 spectacular objects, mainly precious metals but also recently excavated organic materials. PhD candidate Saltanat Amir spoke about her research and the application of non-invasive analysis at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue100 (p. 29) here.
This event followed the 2021 AGM. Five papers were presented on a variety of topics followed by questions and comment; abstracts of the talks are available below.'A Project I am Proud Of' Abstracts
The talk was recorded and is available in the Icon AG members group page.
A review of the session appeared in Icon News, issue 97 (pp. 30-31) here.
The Icon Archaeology Group hosted a webinar on 8 December 2020 to enable emerging professionals to present projects and research related to archaeological conservation that have allowed them to expand a particular skill or knowledge area. This online event was an opportunity for students and early career professionals to increase their confidence in presenting ideas, in a friendly setting, and a chance for attendees to hear about their research and projects.
This study assessed methods of processing the surfaces of Fused-Deposition-Modelled (FDM, 3D printing) polymers with the goal of reducing the corrugated appearance that is often a feature of 3D printed objects. The aim was to create a surface upon which paint could be applied in order to establish the suitability of these 3D-printed polymers for use as infills in low-fired ceramic heritage objects. Two phases of testing were employed; the first compared four methods of processing the sample surfaces, using microphotography, gloss meter readings, and a touch test. The second dealt with the adhesion rates of the applied paint layer and painting samples to mimic low-fired ceramics. During phase one, the processing methods used were heat, abrasion, solvent, and filling. Heat processing was unsuccessful, but the other methods effectively reduced the corrugation. During phase two, a cross-cut tape test was used to assess the adhesion rates of the paint layer. This showed that the solvent and abrasion methods had the highest rates of adhesion. It was concluded that the solvent method was the most effective due to the ease of treatment and the high paint adhesion rates.
Andrea Díaz, Júlia Jiskoot & Noé Valtierra, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)/ Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art
Bone is one of the most abundant materials in the archaeological record; nevertheless, conservation research has focused very little on this material. Taphonomic processes act over a long period of time, compromising the state of conservation and future study. In this presentation, the lines of research that are being initiated at IPHES (Tarragona, Spain) on the cleaning and consolidation of this type of material were presented. Through study of the surfaces with 3D digital microscopy, before and after cleaning, the effects of different tools in the mechanical cleaning process may be analysed. As for consolidation, we have studied the viability of this treatment in humid environments and the effectiveness of different consolidants, focusing mainly on their penetration capacity in archaeological bone. In addition, other products, such as calcium hydroxide, infrequently used in bone conservation, are being explored. From both lines of research, the aim is to improve the knowledge of these treatments on archaeological bone.
Claire McQuillan, University of Lincoln/Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust
Two concealed leather shoes were discovered in the foot of a staircase in an eighteenth-century warehouse during works to convert the building into offices in 2017. They were removed by builders and eventually made their way to me via the project manager. I carried out conservation treatment on the shoes, identifying materials, construction and their approximate age. I cleaned and created storage for the shoes, and carried out research into concealed garments in buildings. This formed the basis of my MA report at the University of Lincoln. However, the biggest lesson was the need to advocate for cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. With the project manager and contractors the need to communicate conservation principles was explored, in order that non-conservation professionals could be made aware of concealed objects, and that a reporting mechanism could be set up so that future finds could avoid damage or loss of context. This was successful and other objects were reported and removed during the project, including a flag, a record book of circa 1923 and lots of rags. With senior management, the superstitions and beliefs around concealed garments were addressed, including the question of whether the shoes should be reinstated in the new building.
Heather Stewart, MSDS and Historic England
Composite objects often present the conservator with a number of dilemmas. This talk sought to outline the decision-making process in the investigative conservation of two concreted composite pistols from the Rooswijk wreck. The talk included discussion of the research and practical approaches to conservation considered prior to intervention.
The Twitter conference took place on Friday 29 May 2020 (#IconArchTC).
We had an exciting line up of 18 international tweeters presenting a large array of subjects: from coin hoards to cannon shot, Iron Age assemblages to iron chain mail and community conservation to composite objects.
The conference was reviewed in Icon News (89), pp.27–29.
The Icon Archaeology and Metals Groups held a one-day conference on 24 February.
The day comprised presentations by international speakers on the post-excavation conservation, investigation, storage and archiving of archaeological metal objects. There was a particular focus on recent Cardiff University research into the use of desiccated microclimates to store iron and copper alloys. The conference took place at Museum of London, Mortimer Wheeler House, and the day ended with guided tours of the Museum of London Archaeological Archive, the largest archaeological archive in the world. The event was reviewed in Icon News (88).Icon Post-X Metals Conference
The 2019 Archaeology Group AGM took place in Oxford at the Ashmolean Museum on 8 August.
Attendees had the opportunity to visit the excellent Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition and the Ashmolean's well-appointed conservation studio to discuss the conservation work that had been carried out on objects from Pompeii. Prior to the AGM, delegates were treated to further presentations by members of the Ashmolean objects conservation team. The event was reviewed in Icon News (85).
Every year thousands of objects are discovered by metal-detector users, field-walkers, people walking, gardening or just going about their daily work. These finds are often acquired and displayed by local and national museums with the support of conservators. The Icon Archaeology Group held a one-day conference on 6 December focusing on the discovery, conservation and study of such finds, including coin hoards. Themes included working with volunteers and aspects of public engagement. After a day of fascinating talks the afternoon included a tour of the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre (MCC) or a tour of the Staffordshire Hoard.
The Icon Archaeology Group held a one-day conference at Birmingham Museums Trust Museum Collection Centre on conserving archaeological finds discovered by members of the public, 15 years after the first conference on this subject was held at the British Museum. With museum professionals, conservators from private and public organisations, and finds liaison officers (FLOs) in attendance, the event served as an excellent forum for discussion.
Pieta Greaves (with FLO Arwen Wood), Gretel Evans, and Dr Sarah Morton presented papers on their experiences as private conservators contracted to stabilise and record archaeological finds found by metal detectorists. In all three cases, the conservators joined the respective projects after the artefacts had been excavated. Alternatively, Rebecca Lang (with FLO Stuart Wyatt), Pippa Pearce, and Neil Mahrer offered their perspectives as conservators representing various museums and public heritage organisations. In all cases, the FLOs and Treasure Trove Unit officers served as intermediaries between the finders and archaeologists/conservators. The conference gave me an opportunity to present an outreach project I conducted with London Mudlark while a student at Cardiff University and seek feedback from established professionals on their respective approaches. The different perspectives served to offer a more holistic representation of the challenge faced by conservators in effectively meeting the demand to preserve these finds.
With an increased awareness and interest in archaeology and conservation in Britain, members of the public are actively seeking for artefacts with historical significance. Many positive steps have been taken to mitigate counterproductive home remedies (goodbye olive oil) and offer professional guidance on first aid for finds. However, FLOs remain overwhelmed and require the support of local conservators. Unlike archaeologists, who have organised to develop public archaeology schemes and programmes, engagement from conservators remains limited by institutional guidelines, unclear professional ethics, and funding.
The conference took an overall positive tone, celebrating the successes and improvements made in the intervening 15 years and offering optimism for future public engagement projects. Special thanks to Pieta Greaves, Icon Archaeology Group Secretary, for organising the conference.
Icon Archaeology Group 2017 AGM Event
This year the Archaeology Group AGM took place in London at the Museum of London Docklands and was combined with a seminar discussing Archaeology on Display. Talks covered topics such as the redisplays at Jorvik, Hadrian’s Wall and the Mary Rose, exhibitions containing human remains at Bristol’s M Shed and the public display of conservation in museums.
Talks were followed by a chance to see the exciting new exhibition Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail which displayed the range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The artefacts helped to explore 8,000 years of human history, revealing the stories of Londoners, ranging from Mesolithic tool-makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.
This event was reviewed in Icon News (72), p.28.
An Archaeology Group conference held at Fishbourne Roman Palace on 16 June 2016