Keeping artefacts in situ and preserving them once out of the water:
Daily questions for a conservator-restorer in marine excavations

Dublin Core


Keeping artefacts in situ and preserving them once out of the water:
Daily questions for a conservator-restorer in marine excavations


Session 7
Preservation and conservation of wet archaeological materials and site management


Working on a shipwreck means analyzing its cargo, taking samples and when access is possible, studying the naval architecture. After publication, in many cases, closing and securing the site is possible.

Excavating a settlement or an underwater city calls first to understand the site with a non-intrusive survey. State of the art investigation equipment such as multi-beam sonar systems, sediment sounder, magnetometer with nuclear resonance allows us to start drawing the map of the establishment. Diving is necessary to check details, to make stratigraphic sections, or to understand structures. This brings up often thousands of artefacts.

Keeping most of the artefacts at the bottom of the sea and storing them in a special underwater storage place with an inventory number is a good solution, but it is also necessary to bring some objects in an atmospheric environment for study, as a reference or because they are too fragile, precious or unique to be left underwater. They will be then on display in a museum or will tour the world.

We are therefore regularly confronted with a sudden flow of artefacts literally inundating a laboratory but also drying out its budget.

Our experience through sunken cities excavations in Egypt has taught us ways to anticipate these waves of artefacts in needs of treatment and to adapt our policy of excavation and the techniques for underwater conservation-restoration.


Olivier Berger


November 2011



Fatal error: Uncaught ValueError: version_compare(): Argument #3 ($operator) must be a valid comparison operator in /home/kknoerl/ Stack trace: #0 /home/kknoerl/ version_compare('8.0.28', '5.6', 'gte') #1 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::isPhpFpm() #2 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scan('<?xml version="...', NULL) #3 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scanFile('/home/kknoerl/t...') #4 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_findRoute('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern', Array) #5 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_getFile('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern') #6 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::getContent('en_US', 'date', Array) #7 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_parseIsoToDate('FFFF', 'en_US') #8 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_toToken('FFFF', 'en_US') #9 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->toString('FFFF') #10 /home/kknoerl/ format_date(1685734219, 'FFFF') #11 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getCitation() #12 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getProperty('citation') #13 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getRecordMetadata(Object(Item), 'citation') #14 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getText(Object(Item), 'citation') #15 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->metadata(Object(Item), 'citation', Array) #16 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->__call('metadata', Array) #17 /home/kknoerl/ metadata('item', 'citation', Array) #18 /home/kknoerl/ include('/home/kknoerl/t...') #19 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View->_run('/home/kknoerl/t...') #20 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->render(NULL) #21 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->renderScript('items/show.php', NULL) #22 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->render() #23 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->postDispatch() #24 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker->notifyPostDispatch() #25 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action->dispatch('showAction') #26 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Dispatcher_Standard->dispatch(Object(Zend_Controller_Request_Http), Object(Zend_Controller_Response_Http)) #27 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Front->dispatch() #28 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap->run() #29 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application->run() #30 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_Application->run() #31 {main} thrown in /home/kknoerl/ on line 172