UCLA/Getty Conservation Program

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

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2 students awarded FAIC George Stout Grant

Congratulations to Brittany Dolph and Alexis North who were each awarded an FAIC George Stout grant to help support their attendance at conferences this spring, where they each will be presenting.

Brittany will present at this year’s Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Honolulu, HI, April 3-8. Her paper, “Sandstone raw materials from Eastern France: Evaluation of non-invasive portable technologies as potential tools for characterization and sourcing”, is based on research she conducted with UCLA/Getty faculty Dr. Christian Fischer as part of the class “Portable Technology for Materials Analysis”.  Her paper will be presented in the session “Archaeometric Methods, Archaeological Materials and Ancient Technologies” organized by UCLA/Getty Program chair Dr. Ioanna Kakoulli and staff member Vanessa Muros, and sponsored by the Society for Archaeological Sciences.

Alexis will be presenting at this year’s AIC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN, May 29-June 1st in the Objects Specialty Group session. Her paper, “Beyond the Visible: Macro and Micro Analytical Forensic Imaging for the Documentation and Investigation of Archaeological Objects” is a continuation of work she began back in the fall of 2012 when she tested the use of a tunable forensic light source to image the polychrome decoration on a pre-Columbian vessel she was treating. Since then, Alexis has been working with UCLA/Getty Program chair Dr. Ioanna Kakoulli to investigate applications of this technique taken from the field of forensics to the examination and documentation of archaeological objects.

Congratulations again to them both and we wish them luck with their presentations!



Sandstone raw materials from Eastern France: Evaluation of non-invasive portable technologies as potential tools for characterization and sourcing
Brittany Dolph and Christian Fischer

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.

Beyond the Visible: Macro and Micro Analytical Forensic Imaging for the Documentation and Investigation of Archaeological Objects
Alexis North and Ioanna Kakoulli

Digital analytical imaging utilizing the properties of visible (Vis), ultraviolet (UV), and infrared (IR) light has become a standard documentation and diagnostic tool used by conservators and art historians not only to create a record of an object’s appearance and condition, but also to uncover its method of manufacture, history, and previous conservation treatment. This non-invasive method has enabled the examination of a variety of objects of different geometry, complexity, and value providing useful information not discernible with the naked eye. Recent advancements in the medical and forensic imaging fields have led to the introduction in conservation of improved methods in the examination and documentation of objects of archaeological, historical, and artistic value.

This paper discusses the application of a forensic alternate light source (ALS) with tunable light capabilities for the analysis of objects under specific wavelengths of light and illumination conditions. Combining the tunability of the light source with longpass, shortpass, and bandwidth filters positioned in front of a modified DSLR camera in which the UV/IR blocking filter has been removed, an object is analyzed using reflectance and fluorescence imaging at the spectral range between 350 nm (ultraviolet-UV) and 1000 nm (near infrared-NIR). From the monochromatic images captured, false-color reconstructed trichromatic images including UV and IR false-color images can be obtained, enhancing specific features not easily discernible in the original black and white images, and assisting in the qualitative identification of certain materials.

The results obtained from this versatile approach show that augmenting analytical imaging with forensic technologies is an invaluable first step in the
examination of objects, being an excellent tool for screening and preliminary characterization of materials. For example, reflectance in the UV and
luminescence in the visible and NIR were performed on an ancient ceramic with a highly obscured surface, revealing long-lost decoration not visible in
standard UV-induced visible fluorescence or NIR reflectance imaging. Issues of authenticity in a law enforcement setting were also resolved with the discovery and identification of traces of ancient paints based on their specific visible and infrared fluorescence emissions.

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Project News: The sampling of archaeological metals for Pb isotope analysis using EDTA

This poster was presented at the American Institute for Conservation’s 37th Annual Meeting held in Los Angeles, CA, May 19-22, 2009.

An alternative sampling method was investigated using ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) to extract lead (Pb) directly from an object for Pb isotope analysis to source archaeological metal artifacts. In order to perform the extraction, a group of objects from the sites of Kerkenes Dağ (Turkey) and Lofkënd (Albania) was soaked in a solution of EDTA and the Pb rich solution was then analyzed using time of flight inductively coupled mass spectrometry (TOF-ICP-MS) to determine the isotopic ratios present. In the archaeological literature success has been reported using this technique for the sourcing of majolica in the American Southwest and lead and silver objects in Pakistan. The authors in these cases reported no macroscopic alteration to the artifacts after soaking in the EDTA solution. However, no study has been undertaken to determine whether the extraction technique alters the surface of the object when examined under magnification.

Preliminary work was conducted by the authors in order to determine 1) whether or not this sampling technique could effectively be used for sourcing archaeological bronzes, in addition to silver and lead artifacts, from Anatolia and Albania and 2) whether soaking archaeological metals in EDTA causes any alteration to the surface of the objects.

Initial results of the Pb isotope analysis from the Turkish material indicated that EDTA solubilizes representatively for its accurate analysis. Examination of the objects in the field after extraction showed no observable change to the surfaces up to 45x magnification. Further work still needs to be undertaken to determine what surface changes or alterations to the object may be occurring during the extraction, since it is clear that material in addition to lead is being extracted out of the metallic artifacts. Based on these initial findings, however, EDTA extraction shows some promise as an alternative method of sampling metallic artifacts to the standard sampling methods used.

Poster-Sampling archaeological metals for Pb isotope analysis using EDTA

Poster-Sampling archaeological metals for Pb isotope analysis using EDTA

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Program alumni organize 2009 AIC Angel’s Project

Recent graduates Molly Gleeson (’08) and Ozge Gencay-Ustun (’08) are the organizers of this year’s American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Angels Project taking place at the Sherman Indian Museum. Each year, in conjunction with the AIC Annual Meeting, an “Angel’s project” takes place providing conservation and collection care for institutions with important cultural collections but may not have enough resources for certain conservation or preservation initiatives. The organizers chose the Sherman Indian Museum after meeting and working with Lorene Sisquoc, Curator, as part of a course offered through the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program. During this year’s project, the volunteers will travel down to Riverside to inventory, survey and re-house objects and archival materials from the museum’s collection.

The project is supported by contributions from Metal Edge, Inc., Southwest Museum of the American Indian, Autry National Center, PACIN – Packing Art handling and Crating Information Network (a Professional Interest Committee of the American Association of Museums), the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, and Paul Messier of Paul Messier, LLC.

For more information on AIC or the Angel’s Project, visit AIC’s website.

2009 Angel’s Project Press Release Press Release