Along with Mark Abbe’s art historical and provenance research as well as his pigment analyses mentioned in great detail in earlier posts, the research on the marble sculptures includes research on the marble itself, to be conducted by Scott Pike. In order to find out from which quarry the marble was obtained for each of the statues, we have to take samples and submit them to scientific analyses. As you can imagine, sampling is a destructive process: holes have to be drilled into the sculptures to obtain either a core or a powder sample. We needed both.
It was object conservator Amy Jones’ job to sample the museum’s sculptures. During four days, we worked together in the galleries and in the lab with a drill, little vials, small baggies, labels and a water bottle. Amy’s main tool was the drill, mine was the squirt bottle. In order to prevent the diamond drill bit from overheating during the drilling of a core sample, water is squirted on it (you do not need to do this when taking a power sample). Lubricating the drill bit with water also makes it last longer and, more important, it prevents the heating of the sample itself. (My other job was to document this whole process and that’s why you have photos to look at below!)
We drilled into the statues in places that are hidden or unobtrusive, although this was not always possible. Each sampling location was carefully documented for our files. In order to minimize trauma to the sculpture, the powdered samples were drilled inside the hole created by the drilling of the large core sample. In all cases where the holes are actually visible, these will be filled to make them less conspicuous.
Taking a core sample in Bacchus’ neck, from below: the holes are thus invisible when displayed in the galleries.
Core sample before removal.
Core sample removed from a statue.
Drilling and squirting in progress: propping up Marcus Aurelius in order to drill a core sample at the back of the bust.
Amy and I working together to collect a powder sample.
The small holes from the powder sample is inside the larger hole made by the removal of a core sample,
Taking a powder sample.
Measuring the quantity of marble powder in the glass vial.
Can you spot the sampling location on Hercules’ head?
The banner photo of me and Khafre in the Cairo Museum has been swapped out for something more recent! You’ll now find an image taken by NCMA photographer Karen Malinofski after the installation of the model of a boat in the Egyptian galleries in the West Building. It will randomly appear up in the banner…
After the CIPEG annual meeting in Copenhagen, I took a flight down to Switzerland for yet another conference. This time, it was the ‘Nubian Conference’ (the International Conference for Nubian Studies), which was held in Neuchâtel. My colleague Matthieu Honegger did a wonderful job in organising this conference and you will have more details on La Vida Aegyptiaca about what I did in Switzerland and Denmark on this last trip.
There was also a lovely exhibition on ancient Nubia at the Laténium and I had my photo taken with two of the the superb statues of Kushite kings (Taharqo and Tanwetamani) found at Dukki Gel (near Kerma) in 2003… and then I read the label and realised that they are actually copies of the originals! The technical precision and workmanship are astounding! The statues were 3D scanned, carved from an agglomerate rock and then hand-painted by a conservator! This was very interesting to me because there is some 3d scanning in my near future. The things we can do with technology these days…
Tanwetamani, Taharqo and I at the Laténium in Neuchâtel (the statues are replicas of the originals).
Conferences are great venues for networking and while reading the (rather impressive) programme for the CIPEG meeting I noticed that some Egyptologists I had been hoping to meet for a while were actually presenting.
One of these scholars is the current curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum, Dr. Campbell Price. I have been following his blog for a while and knew of his recent work and discoveries. Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the museum a few years ago, before Campbell started working there. The Manchester Museum has always been a hub for mummy studies and they have a fantastic collection of daily life artefacts. I did indeed meet Campbell during the CIPEG meeting and he’s super nice. (Apparently he reads my blog!)
Today, I’ve added a new page about the Manchester Museum in the Photo Diary and I also invite you to discover what’s going on at the museum from Campbell’s tweets and posts.
The coffins of the ‘Two Brothers,’ stars of the Manchester Museum!
In late August, I attended the annual conference of CIPEG (Comité international pour l’égyptologie), one of the many committees of ICOM (International Council of Museums). The meeting is mostly attended by curators who have charge of Egyptian and Nubian collections in museums around the world. It was a very well attended event: I met old friends and made new ones…
Attendees of the 2014 CIPEG meeting, at least those who were there on the first day.
The meeting was held in Copenhagen (my first visit!) at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and we had extremely interesting papers on the theme of ‘sources and resources’. I did not present at this meeting, but I hope to do so next year.
My colleague Tine Bagh, curator of Egyptian art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and her team did a fabulous job of organising this lovely conference and scheduling activities that allowed us to discover Copenhagen and Denmark. Cheers!
There is a nice article in Archaeology, the AIA magazine, on the Miniature Pyramids of Sudan, about fieldwork at Sedeinga. Actually, during my first dig season in Sudan back in 2000, I worked at the site with the French mission for one month (after spending the previous month with the Canadian mission at Meroe–see the Day in the life of an archaeologist chronicle). That is where I met my friend Vincent Francigny, who is now co-director of the excavations. Enjoy the article!