Sunday, June 25, 2017

A final look at Ptah-Sokar-Osiris

Julia Commander is a third-year graduate student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She is currently completing a curriculum internship at the Penn Museum.
When we last checked in with the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, I was working on finding a satisfactory cleaning approach. The figure has a darkened layer over the front surface, which obscures the beautiful patterns, colors, and hieroglyphs. My goal for cleaning was to clarify designs and improve legibility, although the sensitivity of the paint layers has made this an interesting challenge.
After cross-section analysis, I looked into instrumental techniques to better understand the condition issues. One promising technique was gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry (GC-MS) since the darkened layer was potentially a coating material. I took a sample by swabbing the dark layer from the wood substrate. Since only a small amount of material can be gathered this way, I collected several swabs in a glass vial for analysis. I sent this down to Winterthur Museum’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory (SRAL), which has previously collaborated on samples from the Artifact Lab. Dr. Christian Petersen, a GC-MS specialist, sent back my spectra with some interesting results. He described the mixture as “waxy dirt,” which helps to clarify what likely happened to the surface. Wax may have been applied to consolidate the badly flaking paint, and this layer could have trapped dirt over time as the figure rested face-up in storage.
Focusing on the wax component did not immediately produce better cleaning results, and I continued testing gels with variations on solutions, application method, and timing. I eventually tried an application of Pemulen TR-2 gel, a polymeric emulsifier, with a proportion of solvent added. This gel was more effective for lifting the waxy grime and did not require excessive action on the surface. Used along with a silicone solvent barrier layer, I was able to lightly clean without lifting pigments from the surface. While I had some initial ideas about cleaning, this method was something that I only found through the process of trial and error.
L-55-29 detail, cleaning test
Even though I cleaned slowly in very small sections, the actual treatment step took much less time than the research, testing, and planning phases. Take a look at the results below.
L-55-29, before cleaning (left) and after cleaning (right)
Aside from cleaning, a few other steps were taken to stabilize the statue. The headdress, which is constructed from multiple pieces of wood, had a large gap that allowed the pieces to move individually. To add support and decrease movement, removable fills were made from Volara foam and Japanese tissue. These materials were turned into small “pillows” that were then pressure-fit into place.
L-55-29 headdress, shaping and fitting Volara foam fills
The figure, headdress, and base do not fit together in a stable arrangement. Instead of intervening further with the object itself, an exterior mount will be constructed to hold the components in place. This method has worked well with a similar Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, which you can see displayed in the Upper Egypt Gallery!
Another Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure on display in Upper Egypt, showing the back of the figure and the mount holding the three pieces together.
Overall, this project provided quite a few challenges and an opportunity to explore cleaning techniques. Thanks for following along on this experience with Egyptian painted surfaces!

Saturday, June 24, 2017 Weekly Digest

Andrei Orlov Andrei Orlov
Marquette UniversityTheology, Faculty Member

Yahoel as the "Second Power"

an excerpt from A.A. Orlov, Yahoel and Metatron: Aural Apocalypticism and the Origins of Early Jewish Mysticism (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017)

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Juan Carlos Moreno                                            Garcia Juan Carlos Moreno Garcia
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

«Economies in transition: trade, "money", labour and nomads at the turn of the 1st millennium BC». In: J.C. Moreno García (ed.), Dynamics of production in the ancient Near East, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2016, p. 1-39.

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Maria Nilsson Maria Nilsson
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

The crown of Arsinoë II. The creation and development of an imagery of authority.

This study deals with a unique crown that was created for Queen Arsinoë II. The aim is to identify and understand the symbolism that is embedded in each pictorial detail that together form the crown and how this reflects the wearer's socio-political and religious positions. The study focuses on the crown and its details, while also including all contextual aspects of the relief scenes in order to understand the general meaning. This crown was later developed and usurped by other female figures; the material includes 158 Egyptian relief scenes dating from Arsinoë's lifetime to Emperor...

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Deborah Sweeney Deborah Sweeney
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

D. Sweeney, "Sitting Happily with Amun," in: B.J.J. Haring, O. Kaper and R. van Walsem (eds.), The Workman's Progress. Studies in the Village of Deir el-Medina and Other Documents from Western Thebes in Honour of Rob Demarée (Egyptologische Uitgaven 24), Leiden, 2014, 217-231.

This article examines the texts on a group of 16 seats excavated by Ernesto Schiaparelli at Deir el Medîna, mostly associated with votive chapel CI but probably also from other chapels. Bruyère argued that these seats, and the many uninscribed seats found in other chapels at the site, indicate that cultic communities met regularly in the chapels for worship. This essay adds a few more details to our knowledge of these communities. Firstly, most of the men mentioned in the inscriptions lived in the mid-20th Dynasty. They were not related to each other, so that if the owners of these seats...

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Joanna Dębowska-Ludwin Joanna Dębowska-Ludwin
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

Provincial Subsidiary Burials in Northern Egypt. Two Cases of Tell el-Farkha Cemeteries in a Three-Dimensional View

Technical development gives new possibilities for the interpretation and popularization of archaeological research. An example can be derived from Tell el-Farkha in Egypt, where the extremely interesting tombs excavated at the site have gained a new life thanks to virtual 3D reconstructions. Two of these structures, which illustrate the beginning and the end of the Egyptian practice of subsidiary burials, were chosen and discussed in detail to show the advantages of the application of a new approach. To achieve this, a typical archaeological description of excavated features was...

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Karolina Rosinska-Balik Karolina Rosinska-Balik
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

Brewing technology in Early Egypt. Invention of Upper or Lower Egyptians?

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Karolina Rosinska-Balik Karolina Rosinska-Balik
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

Proto- and Early Dynastic graves from Tell el-Farkha (Egypt) in three-dimensional view. A case study of grave no.100

The methods and techniques of field work documentation are constantly being improved. In the era of visual media it was necessary to upgrade traditional drawings and recording of structures unearthed during archaeological prospection. The documentation process of excavated sites was always crucial especially when considered feature, accordingly to specific destructive character of archaeological examination, is accessible for the researcher for limited time. In parallel to graphical and visual improvement go possibilities of data interpretation. The new way of view gives not only...

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Bernadette Drabsch Bernadette Drabsch
Bookmarked by Ellen Morris

Ritual, art and society in the Levantine Chalcolithic: The 'Processional' wall painting from Teleilat Ghassul

The fragmentary 'Processional' wall painting from Teleilat Ghassul in Jordan is here shown to depict a religious procession involving eight individuals rather than the three identified in the original 1970s reconstruction. All of the figures wear masks and carry objects, but elaborately robed leaders, members perhaps of a dedicated priestly class, are clearly distinguished from their naked attendants. The scene belongs to the Late Chalcolithic period when Levantine society was becoming increasingly hierarchical, and the wall painting as a whole illustrates the prominent role of elites in...

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Edward Cook Edward Cook
The Catholic University of AmericaDepartment of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures, Faculty Member

Language Contact and the Genesis of Mishnaic Hebrew

Abstract: The origin of Mishnaic Hebrew and its differences from Biblical Hebrew have been explained in different ways, e.g., in terms of chronological development (MH is later), register (MH is colloquial), or geographic (MH originated elsewhere than in Judea). None of these accounts explain, however, just why MH is different in the way that it is different, especially in the pronounced and drastic simplification of its verbal system vis-a-vis BH. Recent advances in contact linguistics suggest that MH originated out of a very specific kind of contact with Aramaic, namely, the fairly rapid...

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Nicholas Morton Nicholas Morton
Nottingham Trent UniversityHistory, Faculty Member

The Uses of the Bible in Crusader Sources, Commentaria: Sacred Texts and their Commentaries: Jewish, Christian and Islamic VII (Brill, 2017).

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