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Conservation (Julie Dawson)

Conservation work was carried out from 8th-20th December 1998.

Wall Paintings

The condition of repairs made in earlier seasons was examined. All were in good condition.

A condition survey was made of accessible sections of the ceiling in the rear room. Despite the dislocation of the ceiling along a major fissure in the rock running from north-east to south-west across the chamber, the ceiling plaster is largely intact and secure (the re-attachment of the delaminated section adjacent to wall 14 was reported in the 1997 summary). There has been erosion of the painted surface, especially the yellow ochre, to the sides of cracks, presumably from the periodic ingress of water at these points but the paint layer is elsewhere in good condition with only the blues and greens tending to be friable where thickly applied. There is a heavy concentration of mud insect nests on the central section between the pillars. The entire ceiling had a thick covering of dust and cobwebs, which was removed with a bulb aspirator and soft brush followed by selective cleaning with a Wishab 12 sponge (avoiding vulnerable areas of the green and blue paint).

On the walls and pillars of the rear room a few further areas of flaking paint and fine plaster identified in the condition survey conducted in previous years were secured as described in previous reports, using a grout made of 1 part Plextol B500 13 diluted with 3 parts distilled water, this combined 1:1 with sieved gypsum powder.

In the corridor the wall painting fragments were cleaned after areas of flaking paint and fine plaster identified in the 1997 condition survey had been secured. A few small patches of edge repair were made to delaminating coarse plaster using a mortar made of 1 part sieved gypsum powder and 3 parts sieved and washed sand, mixed with distilled water and a little Plextol B500 (to aid cohesion). A barrier layer of 10% Paraloid B72 14 in acetone was applied to the plaster before application of the mortar.

The ceiling was photographed for the detailed condition survey and a report was made. Loss of ceiling plaster is much more extensive in the corridor than in the rear room. There is a major fissure through the rock towards the west end, but most of the plaster loss (in places the entire stratification) is concentrated along the edges where the coarse plaster layer, studded with pieces of limestone, was particularly thickly applied to create a shallow arch to the ceiling. There is some delamination at the perimeter of the remaining section down the centre of the ceiling, but on the whole both the paint and the plaster are remarkably secure. The ceiling is covered by a thick layer of dust and cobwebs with some soot at the eastern end of the corridor adjacent to the fire-damaged front room. Starting at the eastern end, the securing of flaking paint and fine surface plaster around major losses and cleaning by brush and Wishab sponge were begun.

The walls and ceiling were examined with ultra-violet light to detect and record the presence of the two types of original coatings which have been found throughout the tomb on distinct zones of colour.

Objects

The condition of objects treated in previous seasons was checked and found to be satisfactory.

Further cleaning was carried out on the mud-encrusted head of an anthropoid coffin (described in the 1996 report), revealing more detail of the painted features and of the structure of the surface. However, the remaining mud and small stones, especially on the nose and lower part of the face, are impacted into the paint layer and the limits of safe removal without disruption of the paint have now been reached.

A fragment of inscribed fine linen mummy bandage folded into the mummified leg of Wedjahor was removed so that it could be conserved and stored more safely. The textile fibres were strong and flexible except where impregnated with black resin from the body, so the linen was gradually relaxed in a humidity chamber and straightened (but preserving the two original folds) to enable the text to be read. A supportive mount was made. Two pieces of very fragmentary and crumpled inscribed papyrus were gently humidified and relaxed. Small bridges of Japanese tissue adhered with 2% Methocel AC4 15 in water:alcohol (1:1) were applied across the back on weak areas and breaks, and supportive mounts were made.


12

Wishab: a dry vulcanised latex sponge.

13

Plextol B500: a dispersion of ethylacrylate (60%) methyl methacrylate (40%) in water.

14

Paraloid B72: an acrylic copolymer (ethyl methacrylate:methylacrylate 70:30).

15

Methocel AC4: methyl cellulose.

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© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2014