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You are in: Collections > Ancient World > Ancient Near East > Progress > . January 2006

Progress of the work: January 2006

This month we have had an exciting new arrival in the department: a Raman spectroscope with two lasers attached to it. This equipment was kindly lent to us by Dr. Trevor Emmett from the Department of Forensic Science at Anglia Ruskin University. Raman spectroscopy gives us a way of “fingerprinting” and identifying some of the pigments found on our objects.

The picture on the right shows the spectroscope set up in our basement with Nichole, our conservation intern, at the controls.

More information about how Raman spectroscopy works, and about some of the results we have achieved, can be found on a separate page (Raman spectroscopy).

    Nichole using the Raman spectrocope

We have also had several visits from Caroline Cartwright and Rebecca Stacey, conservation scientists at the British Museum's Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science. Caroline is an expert in ancient wood identification, so we have asked her to identify what species our wooden coffins have been made from. So far she has taken hundreds of tiny samples (see below, left), including one from each separate piece of wood or dowel in every coffin.

The pictures below (right and centre) show Rebecca Stacey taking samples of resins and varnishes from some of our ancient Egyptian objects. Rebecca uses a technique called Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify resins, varnishes and other binding media. GC-MS is able to give accurate results from very tiny samples.

A wood sample being taken from one of our Middle Kingdom coffin panels Rebecca Stacey taken samples of resins from one of our objects Close-up of a resin sample being taken

The results of Caroline's and Rebecca's analyses will be posted on this website during the year.

Bob and Ron move the temple relief with the forklift

The temple relief being installed in the Egyptian galleries


Meanwhile, in the galleries, our technicians are starting to install some of the larger objects. The pictures on the left show Bob Bourne, Nathan Huxtable and Ron Consadine lifting a fragment of a relief from a temple at Memphis onto a plinth. The relief is extremely heavy, so they have to use a forklift to raise it to the right height.

Although the relief is so large it is also very fragile and easily damaged. Fortunately, Bob has a lot of experience of moving large sculptures, so he makes sure that it is put in place safely. The relief is slid gently onto its plinth on a piece of smooth hardboard, which ensures that neither the plinth nor the sculpture is scratched.

By the end of this month, most of the free-standing sculpture has been installed in the galleries. The galleries are finally starting to take shape!