Maickel von Bellegem (Department of Conservation & Scientific Research, British Museum)
Two weeks have passed since my arrival in Sudan. Various materials were awaiting conservation assessment, after excavation: remains of papyrus and a piece of worked bone with traces of paint. The bone had been consolidated in situ and block lifted by Manuela Lehmann. This is how fragile materials are usually dealt with to allow more detailed and time consuming work to be done in a studio set up. A similar approach was taken to the excavation of a bead necklace found embedded in the clay floor of house D11.1 – the second one found in this house (the first was painstakingly excavated bead-by-bead by Manuela).
A chunk of the floor was lifted from site and back in the conservation workroom at the house I used solvents to soften the clay and scrape it away using a scalpel. This allowed the row of beads to be exposed so we know the sequence in which they were originally strung. The blue beads in particular were very fragmentary and would not withstand restringing so we decided to leave them all in the soil block.
The red beads – probably carnelian – are accompanied by white faience and blue. The blue might be faience, frit or glass. The sections of the soil block have been secured onto a plastic sheet (a re-used plastic food container – sustainable conservation!) so can be handled without risking damage to the beads. Other materials that so far have received conservation treatment are a number of copper alloy objects, bone and ivory, wood remains and also faience shabti-figures.
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