UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

A graduate conservation training program focusing on the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic materials

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Looking forward to the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation annual meeting


LA-NAGPIC2013 logo


The UCLA/Getty Program—with a lot of help from our friends—is hosting the 2013 annual meeting of the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation on April 25-27. This is the first time ever that this meeting will take place in Los Angeles! We’re so excited that our students designed the swank logo for the conference L-A-NAGPIC 2013. This meeting brings together students, faculty and staff from North American programs offering graduate degrees in conservation, including Buffalo State College, NYU (Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts), Queens University, UCLA/Getty, the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in art Conservation, and the Straus Center at Harvard which offers graduate fellowships. We are expecting close to 160 guests to visit in April.

Student papers will be presented on April 26 at the Getty Center, with twelve talks covering a broad array of topics in the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage including silk textiles, a 17th century manuscript, a painting by Georges Seurat, an orangutan taxidermy specimen, pinball art, and plant-based contemporary art as a sampling. Our own students at the UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation will present two papers: Caitlin Mahony is presenting her research and treatment of an American Indian quillwork leather vest in the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and Casey Mallinckrodt will present her technical research and condition assessment of a Ptolemaic Egyptian sarcophagus from the San Diego Museum of Man. Their abstracts follow this post.

The second day of talks at the UCLA Lenart Auditorium, in the Fowler Museum on Saturday April 27, includes an Honorary Angelica Rudenstine Lecture presented by Robyn Sloggett, Director of the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Prof. Sloggett’s compelling topic is “Why conservation is critical to the future of our planet”. This lecture will be followed by our own Andrew W. Mellon Education Resident and Visiting Assistant Professor Tharron Bloomfield, moderating a panel discussion that builds on the specialties emphasized in the UCLA/Getty Program. “Conserving Communities” will include an indigenous archaeologist Desiree Martinez, an indigenous textile conservator Rangi Tena koe, as well as Judy Baca and Robyn Sloggett, scholars whose own work in preservation incorporates community members. Saturday will include a poster session with three UCLA/Getty posters, one authored by three students describing varied approaches to American Indian leather moccasin repairs, another about the use of pigment identification performed on the Ptolemaic child sarcophagus lid as an aid in identifying reused structural elements, and a third poster about the associated values considered in the development of a site management plan for the location of the Woodstock Festival of 1969.

ANAGPIC 2013 promises to promote research, conservation excellence, fun and SoCal weather!

Prof. Ellen Pearlstein


Mending Leather and Quillwork on a Native American Vest: The Challenges and Achievements
Caitlin Mahony

In the fall of 2012, treatment was undertaken on a leather Native American vest with quillwork decoration. This paper will discuss the challenges that were encountered during the mending of the damaged leather and solutions that were found, which provided stability without further compromising the condition of the substrate. The vest to be discussed is from the Fowler Museum and is loosely attributed to the Sisseton (Santee) Sioux Indians. Its major condition issues were creases, tears, and losses to the leather, especially in the armhole region, which presumably occurred from repeated abrasion and exposure to moisture from extensive use. Pervasive insect damage throughout the quillwork left a significant amount of quills lost, lifting, or insecure and in need of stabilization. An analysis of a sample of collagen fibers from the leather revealed a shrinkage temperature in the range of 32-36, far below the range that would be expected of stable oil tanned leather, as is commonly used by the tribes of the Sioux Nations. Due to the instability of the leather, it was deemed necessary to develop a treatment that would avoid excessive use of solvents, exclude any use of water, and avoid using heat to reactivate adhesives. After evaluating several adhesives and carriers through the development and testing of mock repairs with chamois, an interior hinge system of Reemay with adhesive film that reactivated with solvent was used with great success. The same adhesive film with Tyvek carrier was used to stabilize broken and lifting quills. The mends to the leather and quill both demonstrated a desired strength and flexibility. Details of these mending procedures will be discussed as well as the decision-making process that determined the treatment materials and methods.

This Old Foot: Technical analysis of a Ptolemaic Child Sarcophagus to Identify Structural Components Repurposed from other Ancient Coffins
Catherine (Casey) S. Mallinckrodt

It is well known that Egyptians constructed highly elaborate and protective structures to transport the dead into the afterlife. While it might seem inconsistent that coffins would be emptied of their inhabitants and repurposed, in the approximately 3000 thousand years during which ancient Egyptian funerary practices involved decorated coffins, there is evidence of significant reuse to meet the needs of the always-flourishing funerary business.   Through the waves of “Egyptomania” that began after the 18th century rediscovery of ancient Egyptian tombs, coffin parts have been repurposed to meet the demands of collectors.

The first stages of the technical analysis of a Ptolemaic Child Sarcophagus from the San Diego Museum of Man has revealed the possibility that both the foot block and the carved face may have been reused from different coffins and at different times.    This talk will describe the structural and stylistic differences that suggested reuse, describe the analytic methods used to distinguish the component parts, and present the relevant results of the analysis. The content of scholarly consultation and research will be presented including a discussion of both ancient and modern contexts of reuse.

The description of the structure and methods of manufacture will be accompanied by graphic illustrations and x-radiographic images. Comparison of pigment mixtures and the microstructure of particles from the head, body and foot will be accompanied by photomicrographs, x-ray fluorescence analysis, and forensic photographic images that demonstrate the presence of Egyptian blue.

It is hoped that this talk will offer meaningful information about the effectiveness of these analytic techniques in exploring characteristic differences in components of an ancient object, as well as considering the pathway this object might have taken from Ptolemaic Egypt to a conservation lab in coastal California.

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UCLA/Getty Program takes on the SAA’s (and Honolulu)

This spring students, staff and faculty of the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program will be attending the Society for American Archaeology’s Annual Meeting (April 3-7, in Honolulu, HI) and representing the field of archaeological conservation. Faculty member and chair, Dr. Ioanna Kakoulli, and I have co-organized a symposium titled Archaeometric Methods, Archaeological Materials & Ancient Technologies which takes place on Sat. April 6th and is sponsored by the Society for Archaeological Sciences.

The session brings together professionals in the field of archaeology and conservation to present their research on the use of instrumental analysis for the characterization of ancient and historic materials. The aim is to create a discussion of the advantages and limitations of different techniques based both on hardware design and application methodology and the pitfalls in the acquisition and interpretation of results. The papers will touch on the methods of acquiring the data and how the data is treated in light of the complexities posed by the heterogeneous nature of archaeological materials and the alterations that they undergo during burial. There will be a focus on how condition/preservation issues, the heterogeneity of the artifacts and the difficultly of analyzing artifacts that cannot be sampled affect the techniques that can be used, the choice of analytical methodology and the interpretation of results. By addressing these limitations, and especially by having conservators speak on the impact of condition and deterioration on the overall composition and stability of archaeological materials, a new perspective can be added to the discussion of instrumental analysis that would be beneficial to any researcher working on ancient materials.

In addition to the research the presenters will introduce, the session will increase the presence of conservators, conservation scientists and conservation graduate students at this archaeological conference. The hope is it that it will introduce those not familiar with our field to conservation-related research, increasing the awareness of the archaeological community to the work conducted by conservators and their contribution to larger archaeological goals and research questions. This collaboration with and outreach to the archaeological community has been a focus of the UCLA/Getty Program and our hope is that this session will be an extension of that work and help bridge the gap that still exists between these two professions.

Not only are we happy about getting to spend some time in Honolulu, but we are excited to have two of our students presenting their research at the session. We have a few papers that will be given by emerging archaeological conservators giving them an opportunity to present their research at this early stage in their career. They’ll also have the opportunity to connect with archaeologists and other professionals which will help form collaborations in the future. As a result of this session, I hope these emerging conservators will wish to continue this kind of outreach during their conservation careers and work to further integrate conservation into the practice of archaeology.

If you are attending the SAA’s, make sure to come to our session to hear the exciting talks listed below (after the photo). Abstracts for the conference can be accessed here. Hope to see you in Honolulu!

beautiful beach in Hawaii (Not Honolulu or Oahu, but on the Big Island. Just wanted to set the mood)

A beautiful beach in Hawaii. It’s not Honolulu or Oahu, but the Big Island. It’s just in here to add context and because I’m sure Honolulu will be as beautiful.

Vanessa Muros
Conservation Specialist, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program


Archaeometric Methods, Archaeological Materials & Ancient Technologies

Empire Without A Voice: Phoenician Iron Metallurgy and Imperial Strategy at Carthage
Brett Kaufman, PhD candidate, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA

Analyzing deteriorated glass using pXRF: A preliminary study of vitreous beads from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age tumulus of Lofkënd in Albania
Vanessa Muros, Conservation Specialist, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

Several Roads Lead to Chichén Itzá: Tracing the Fabrication Histories of Metals Deposited in the Cenote Sagrado
Bryan Cockrell, PhD candidate, Anthropology, UC Berkeley
José Luis Ruvalcaba Sil, Research Scientist, Instituto de Física, UNAM
Edith Ortiz Díaz, Researcher in Archaeology, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, UNAM

Improving the Diagnostic Capabilities of GC-C-IRMS Analyses of Organic Residues in Archaeological Pottery
Michael W. Gregg, and Greg F. Slater
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University

Comparison between 3D Geometric Morphometric Analysis over Traditional Linear Methods in Lithic Assemblages; Tor Faraj, Jordan, a Middle Paleolithic Site as a Case Study
Colleen A Bell, Miriam Belmaker and Donald Henry, Dept. of Anthropology, The University of

Characterization of 5th C. B.C. Athenian Pottery Black Gloss Slips
Marc Walton and Karen Trentelman, Getty Conservation Institute
Jeffrey Maish and David Saunders, J. Paul Getty Museum
Brendan Foran3, Neil Ives3, and Miles Brodie, The Aerospace Corporation
Apurva Mehta, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory

Lipid Analysis and Plant Residue Identification: New Perspectives
Cynthianne Debono Spiteri , Dept. of Archaeology, BioArCh, University of York & Max Planck
Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Amanda Henry, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Oliver E. Craig, Dept. of Archaeology, BioArCh, University of York

Integrated Archaeometric Analysis of the Context and Contents of an Ulúa-style Marble Vase from the Palmarejo Valley, Northwest Honduras
E. Christian Wells, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida

The Jaina-style Figurine Project: Portable Technologies, Advantages and Limitations
Christian Fischer, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and UCLA/Getty Conservation
Carinne Tzadik, MA student, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program
Ioanna Kakoulli, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and Chair,UCLA/Getty Conservation
Sandra L. Lopez Varela, Dept. of Anthropology, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
Christian De Brer, Conservator, Fowler Museum at UCLA
Kim Richter, Research Specialist, Getty Research Institute

Sandstone raw materials from Eastern France: Evaluation of Non-Invasive Portable Technologies as Potential Tools for Characterization and Sourcing
Brittany Dolph, MA Student, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program
Christian Fischer, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and UCLA/Getty Conservation Program


Analyzing deteriorated glass using pXRF: A preliminary study of vitreous beads from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age tumulus of Lofkënd in Albania
Vanessa Muros, Conservation Specialist, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

The availability of portable analytical instrumentation, such as portable xray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), has allowed for more archaeometric research to be conducted on archaeological materials in the field, where artifacts can be analyzed in situ. The application of this technique to the study of ancient materials has been advantageous in that many more artifacts can be analyzed non-destructively, without the need for sampling. Issues are often encountered, however, in the characterization of these objects due to their heterogeneity because of the materials used, method of manufacture or the alteration materials undergo during burial.

This paper will describe the characterization of a group of vitreous beads excavated from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age tumulus (14th-9th c. BC) of Lofkënd in Albania. The beads, which exhibited varying degrees of deterioration and corrosion, were analyzed using pXRF in order to identify the raw materials used. The factors considered in the creation of the analytical methodology will be presented. The challenges encountered in the interpretation of the results, and the importance of understanding the deterioration processes of archaeological materials when studying ancient artifacts will be discussed.

The Jaina-style Figurine Project: Portable Technologies, Advantages and Limitations
Christian Fischer, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and UCLA/Getty Conservation
Carinne Tzadik, MA student, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program
Ioanna Kakoulli, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and Chair,UCLA/Getty Conservation
Sandra L. Lopez Varela, Dept. of Anthropology, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
Christian De Brer, Conservator, Fowler Museum at UCLA
Kim Richter, Research Specialist, Getty Research Institute 

Of all sites in the Mexican state of Campeche on the Yucatán Peninsula’s Gulf coast, the islet of Jaina has been in the spotlight for many years, principally, due to the very fine clay figurines found in great numbers within burial sites. Compared to the archaeological/art historical analysis, the archaeometry of Jaina figurines has been less extensive. The Jaina style figurine project applies a multiscale and multianalytical approach based on noninvasive and non-destructive testing for the chemical fingerprinting of the figurines and to investigate the degree of variability in the chemistry and technology among the figurines relative to the analytical uncertainties. Here we present preliminary data obtained using non-invasive technology based on spectral imaging (SI), Xray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and ultraviolet, visible, near infrared (UV/Vis/NIR) reflectance spectroscopy for the characterization of the clay body and blue paint decoration. The advantages and limitations of the non-invasive techniques employed will be discussed in the context of material heterogeneity and variability, geometry and stylistic features of the figurines.

Sandstone raw materials from Eastern France: Evaluation of Non-Invasive Portable Technologies as Potential Tools for Characterization and Sourcing
Brittany Dolph, MA Student, UCLA/Getty Conservation Program
Christian Fischer, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering and UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

In the Alsace region of eastern France, sandstone is an important local resource which has been utilized by societies throughout time. Although earliest archaeological evidence of usage dates back to the Neolithic, it is mainly during the Gallo-Roman and Medieval periods that this sandstone was extensively quarried, and nowadays is still commercially exploited for building and conservation purposes. Primarily composed of quartz, feldspars,
and various types and amounts of micas and clay minerals, the sandstone types present variegated colors and belong to different levels of the Buntsandstein, a lithostratigraphic unit of lower Triassic age. This research explores the potential of X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and ultraviolet/visible/near infrared (UV/Vis/NIR) spectroscopy for the non-invasive characterization of different Buntsandstein sandstone lithotypes using portable instrumentation. The two complementary non-invasive techniques allow identification of both elemental and mineralogical compositions while providing a useful alternative for the analysis of archaeological artifacts and/or field investigations where sampling is not an option. Furthermore, they can be used to document current condition and possible alteration processes in order to identify decision-making criteria for conservation treatments. Preliminary results obtained on reference samples from modern quarries exploiting the Buntsandtein sandstone will be presented and discussed with particular focus on provenance and sourcing.

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RTI Rock Art Documentation at LA County Parks & Rec

Last Monday, we joined Ansley Davies, Associate Curator for the LA County Department of Parks & Recreation, at a local rock art site with both painted and carved elements in order to carry out a photographic technique called reflective transformation imaging (RTI). The rock art elements are at risk of vanishing because they were painted on and inscribed into massive sandstone rocks, the surface of which is easily destroyed by particles carried by wind, rainfall, movement by animals, and lichens, which are growths on rock made up in part by algae and part by fungus. Vandalism by visitors also places the rock art at risk. The goal of the project then was to start creating a photographic record of each of the elements so that the information carried by the elements can be preserved and interpreted by archaeologists for years to come, even if the physical paintings and drawings cannot be preserved. Joining us for the project to learn the technique were Sarah Brewer, a local archaeologist who grew up in the area, and Jairo Avila, a graduate student studying archaeology at Cal State Northridge who plans to write his thesis on the paints used on rock art sites in Southern California.

Developed by Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI), RTI is a way to create a digital image of a flat surface that when processed with special computer software, allows the texture of the surface to be examined using a moveable virtual light source. Special filters can also be used to emphasize the surface features, as well. Students in our class learned how to set up the camera and special equipment to capture images in the fall of 2011, when the staff of CHI taught a workshop at the Getty Villa.

The set-up involves placing a camera on a stable tripod in a position allowing the desired image to be framed and in focus. Two small, black, shiny reflective balls are also placed in the image, attached to long sticks that are held steady by tripods. A series of 24 – 72 images are taken with a bright light source such as a portable flash in a different location each time, while the camera stays in the same position. Afterwards, the images are fed into a computer program that recognizes the location of the highlight on the shiny black balls from the flash. It uses the information to calculate the direction and distance of the light from the object in each image, adding them together to make a single image (without the balls). When the image is viewed on a computer, the viewer can use a mouse to move a virtual light source, showing the highlights and shadows of the surface from different angles. This technique is especially good for documenting rock carvings that might not be easily visible with normal lighting.

We had never carried out RTI in an outdoor setting before, and were met with some challenges. The first was hiking with all the equipment out to the site! Another issue was the brightness of the mid-day sun, which can sometimes cause problems with trying to use another light to create shadows. This wasn’t as much of a problem as we expected though, because the rock face happened to be in shadow itself, allowing the flash to do its job. We made up for the extra light by taking the images with slightly shorter exposure times. Another problem was that we did not have enough tripods. We solved this problem by picking up some dried yucca stalks lying on the ground, mounting the balls on the ends with plastic ties, and propping them up with our backpacks and small rocks lying on the ground nearby! We were quite proud of this innovation.

It was a beautiful day to be out in the park admiring the rock art, and we can’t wait to go back!


Brittany Dolph (’14) and Geneva Griswold (’14)