Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unseasonal Rain and Its Effects on Cleaning Stone Altars

The normal field season at Gordion experiences very warm weather. However, this summer so far has been unusually cold and wet; in fact, it rained nearly every day for a week!

We enjoy the amazing cloud formations on a walk back to the dig house.
Muddy roads after a sudden downpour of rain.

Although the rain allows for enjoyment of beautiful clouds like the ones seen above, our walks to the site museum were rather muddy. Cars must also contend with the downpour of rain; the architectural conservation team was stranded on site when their vehicle got stuck in the mud. Kenneth Sams, Director of Gordion Excavations, had so much mud stuck in his tires, they caught on fire while he was driving!

However, there are some surprising benefits to the rain. In previous seasons, the deposits on two stone altars were particularly hard and difficult to remove. The elevated humidity from the recent rains has softened the deposits, and some areas are now flaking off rather easily. We plan to take advantage of the situation and remove the deposits while they are still soft from the rains. More stubborn areas will first be softened with a poultice and gently removed with a scalpel or chisel. This is a particularly useful approach for deposit layers closest to the stone.

A poultice, comprised of paper towels soaked in water, was applied to soften the deposits.

Last season, the conservation team applied a toilet paper squeeze to study the defaced inscriptions. Unfortunately, the inscription was still not legible, perhaps due to fine layers of dirt. Hopefully, after further cleaning, we will have more luck this season!

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