During the first quarter of the first year, the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program offers a course on documentation and imaging techniques used for art, archaeology and conservation. In the class, students are introduced to a range of techniques used to document objects and sites and are given a project where they can put what they have learned in the lectures into practice. This year one of the projects focused on documenting the condition of a mural painting located on a building on UCLA’s campus. Three students had the opportunity to examine and document the condition of a section of a mural on the ceiling of the eastern cloister of Royce Hall, one of the four original buildings on the campus. Using various photographic and recording techniques, the students were able to provide a condition assessment of a small section of the murals in this part of the building. In addition to learning how to apply the techniques they learned and become aware of their advantages and limitations, the students were able to provide some information to those responsible for the building on the condition of the mural and issues that may need to be addressed to ensure the preservation of the decorated surfaces.
The presentation below was prepared by the students working on this project and provides a brief summary of the techniques they used for documenting the murals and their results.
In the fall of 2009, the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program offered the course “Introduction to Archaeological Materials Science: Scientific Techniques, Methodologies and Interpretation” (CAEM M210) that focused on basic scientific techniques employed for the examination of archaeological and cultural artifacts to answer questions of anthropological significance and their state of preservation. Among the techniques covered were UV/VIS/NIR spectrophotometry, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Students were assigned small research projects in which they would apply these techniques, in addition to others discussed in this and other courses, to the investigation of various materials to answer questions about technology and condition.
The four groups of artifacts studied were:
samples of a Byzantine wall painting from St. Neophytos, Cyprus
A series of 5 blue and 5 red pigment samples from the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos, the place of reclusion, in Paphos, Cyprus were analyzed to determine the pigments identity and possible alteration products. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Variable Pressure Scanning Electron Microscopy – Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (VPSEM-EDS), Polarized Light Microscope (PLM), and Binocular (stereo) Microscope (BM) were used to analyze the samples and due to the limitations of the techniques, only inconclusive assignments can be made on the pigments’ identity.
From elemental analysis it is suspected that the blue pigment is lapis lazuli and that there are two different red pigments which are cinnabar HgS and red lead (Pb3O4). However, without phase analysis of these samples, a positive identification cannot be made. Alteration of red to black and dark blue to light blue were observed for the samples analyzed. A possible alteration of Cinnabar is to metacinnabar. Documented alteration products of red lead are to plattnerite [β-PbO2] and anglesite [PbSO4]. Fading of lapis lazuli has been attributed to the breakdown of the Al-O-Si in the literature. However, it was not possible to verify if these are the alteration products with the available tools.
Fiber samples from a formative period mummy bundle from Tarapaca 40 in the Atacama desert of Chile were examined in an attempt to identify
them. Standards of human hair and alpaca were used for comparison. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) spectra were collected on the samples and standards. The morphology of the fibers and standards were examined using polarized light microscopy (PLM), scale casts and cross-sections. The spectra from the FT-IR analysis could not be used to differentiation between human and alpaca hair. Based on morphology, three samples were identified as camelid and two were tentatively identified as human.
Here are our vessels before firing…you can see the pit warming up there in the background.
Vessels waiting to be fired
After the initial fire heated up, a layer of ceramic sherds was laid down to insulate the pots from the heat. Then our pots, along with all the other greenware (unfired pieces) were placed in the pit. Another layer of large sherds was placed on top of the greenware, and layer of bisqueware (previously fired ceramics) was placed on top of that. Then we added more wood, and fired it up again!
Vessels were placed in pit on a layer of ceramic sherds that act to insulate the pots from the heat
Then more wood was added
After firing for a good few hours, and reaching close to 900 degrees celsius, the pottery was ready to be retrieved.
Firing the pots
Most everything survived! Success!! Now we all know a little bit more about a technique that has been around for many millennia…Thanks to Don Corbett and Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett, Director of the Ceramics Research Group, at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology for organizing all of this!
Removing the pots after firing
Happy students with their fired pots. (L to R) Dawn Lohnas, Cindy Lee Scott, Nicole Ledoux, Tessa de Alarcon, Robin O'Hern, Elizabeth Drolet, Lily Doan (conservation students) Don and Marilyn Corbett (organizers)
This week marks the beginning of classes at UCLA and the entry of the class of 2012 into the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program. This first few days of this week are filled with various orientations to lab spaces and the program in general. The conservation students attend a portion of these orientations with the incoming students to UCLA’s Archaeology graduate program to give them an opportunity to interact and enjoy tours and luncheons together before classes start later in the week.
We wish the incoming classes of both the Conservation and Archaeology program lots of success in their graduate studies!
The class of 2012! (front row, L to R) Robin O'Hern, Elizabeth Drolet, Tessa de Alarcon, Dawn Lohnas (back row, L to R) Cindy Lee Scott, Lily Doan, Nicole Ledoux
Incoming conservation and archaeology students at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology