Archaeological Conservation in the Museum

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Today at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, we are working on artifacts for our next special exhibition, “Pearls of Wisdom: the Arts of Islam at the University of Michigan.” It features art and artifacts from the ancient Islamic world. In the conservation lab, we’re examining the artifacts to document their physical condition as well as details of their construction and decoration.

In these photos, Kelsey conservator Caroline Roberts is examining filters from the (broken) necks of Fatimid-period jars. The decorative filter designs were carved while the clay was still a bit wet, before firing. Many of the designs show animals, like this lion (below), and would only have been visible to the person pouring liquid into or out of the vessel. We like archaeological conservation because every day we’re looking at daily life artifacts and thinking about how people lived in the ancient world. As conservators, we look at artifacts in an especially technical way, looking closely for details of manufacture, evidence of use, and subsequent deterioration.

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