How to save wooden heritage?

Issues of the conservation of archaeological wooden findings were discussed in Sviyazhsk

How to save wooden heritage?
Photo: Maxim Platonov

Archaeological Timber annual scientific conference where scientists and restorers from Russia and foreign countries talked about their experience of digs, conservation and transportation of wooden findings opened in Sviyazhsk. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

It is luck to find a wooden object

Unlike stone relics, wooden findings require being treated more carefully at all stages. Even an entire wooden old object can rarely be found. Lyudmila Kundo, leading chemist and technologist, restorer of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography from Novosibirsk, has been dealing with the conservation of timber from the frozen earth in mountainous Altai.

Every finding of an entire wooden object in the frozen earth or the one that needs to be restored is sheer luck. In such conditions, timber is subject to quick degradation and destruction. However, a lot of objects are preserved well in unique ancient Pazyryk Burials.

Lyudmila Kundo thinks that the toughest task is to save large wooden constructions — log cabins made of larches, logs, beds, daises and so on. It became possible to save a lot of exhibits thanks to Japanese colleagues’ assistance.

“Wet timber of these objects was well preserved. Urgent conservation was required to stabilise the preservation. This became possible thanks to the cooperation between our institute and a Japanese cultural centre for timber conservation in Nara. In accordance with the method offered by the Japanese, timber was saturated with solutions of polyethylene glycol conservative 4,000,” the expert said.

Lyudmila Kundo thinks that the toughest task is to save large wooden constructions. Photo: archaeology.nsc.ru

German archaeologist, Doctor Ingrid Stelzner considers that a professional must always correctly define the way of working. Otherwise, a fragile wooden artefact can be lost. The specialist believes that the best method of conserving timber depends on conditions and equipment. Not every method of conservation suits seriously damaged samples and objects made of degraded wood.

Bags and vacuum cleaner to save history

Candidate for Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Senior Researcher of the Marjani Institute of History of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences Rezeda Khramchenkova talked about digs in the island town of Sviyazhsk.

There were so many findings that in 2013 it was necessary to create a quick method of saturating wooden goods in vacuum-like conditions. For this purpose, laboratory worker Alexander Belyakov offered to use household hermetic vacuum bags to store clothes, while an ordinary vacuum cleaner was used to remove the air. The simple technology that was invented in the field turned out to be incredibly effective.

“More than 750 findings were conserved via vacuum saturation in bags, more than 150 of which were treated immediately after they were removed from the soil. The state of the objects for more than seven years proves the success of the method that was used,” Rezeda Khramchenkova shared.

Nowadays the wooden goods conserved with the help of bags and a vacuum cleaner can be seen in the timber museum in Sviyazhsk.

Ingrid Stelzner considers that a professional must always correctly define the way of working. Otherwise, a fragile wooden artefact can be lost. Photo: esslinger-zeitung.de

What does turf hide?

Candidate for Historical Sciences, leading researcher of the Department of History and Philosophy of the Cherepovets State University Natalia Kosorukova has been restoring Stone Age organic goods in the basin of Lake Vozhe in Vologda Oblast for many years:

“We dig turf Stone-Age sites. Turf sites give us more information about the past. When I worked in the museum, I wanted to add not only stone tools but also bone instruments to the exposition. I searched, explored for many years.”

So during an expedition to Vologda Oblast in 2002, it became possible to find the site Karavaikha04, while monuments of Pogostishche were found in 2005. Digs have been taking place there since 2003.

Natalia Kosorukova expressed confidence that the local turf hides a lot of turf monuments. There is little time to constantly deal with searches.

“I have a dream of granting this region a status of archaeological nature-reserve so that plants and dams are not built here, because this will lead to a situation in which it will become impossible to examine turf sites,” the speaker noted.

Some findings go back to the 19th century BC. Among them, it is arrowheads, pieces of daggers, stone rings and other objects.

“The biggest problem, of course, is that a restorer is needed, we would have him during an expedition, who could travel with us, who could do only this job because I have many other problems. Sometimes I have no time physically.”

Natalia Kosorukova has been restoring Stone Age organic goods in the basin of Lake Vozhe in Vologda Oblast for many years. Photo: vk.com

To restore the history of sea battles

Head of metal restoration of the State Russian Museum Andrey Smirnov spoke about the nuances of restoring artefacts from a marine battlefield.

“Restoration works with exhibits require an individual approach to every object. During fieldwork, the expedition needs to have a specialist or qualified people who can do first works so that objects were taken to restoration laboratories undamaged,” he stressed.

The important specifics and intricacy of the job is that timber here is often linked with metal, while the task is to save both, which means highly skilled specialists are necessary to save the artefacts.

“The creation of a separate area in restoration activity is very topical nowadays. It is a restorer of submarine archaeology objects by giving this area an official status.”

Emil Ziyangirov
Tatarstan