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So, I, I'm, I'm curious things preserved

for the very most part, very well in


Egypt.
But as you, as you find things, it can,
does trouble start when you first
discover things in many contexts.
Once you find something, you have to
immediately start to worry about having
changed its context, having changed its
environment, and is it going to [SOUND]
fall apart on you or, how does that work
in Egypt?
>> This is absolutely a concern in
Egypt too, [CROSSTALK] absolutely.
[CROSSTALK] Of course and once something
is exposed, it's very windy, for
instance.
Something that's fragile in the wind, if
you've got a plas, plastered surface or
you've got cloth that is completely
dessicated, after how many 1000 years, it
can go poof in the wind.
>> I didn't realize that, okay.
>Conservation is then.
>> Right there in the field.
>> Absolutely.
>> At the moment.
>> So well, this is our first duty
if we are going to understand what we
find, we have to make sure that its
preserved in the best condition as
possible.
So, we always have conservators with us.
And, frequently, it is necessary to
intervene in the field even before we
remove something for analysis.
One of the things we've been doing a lot
with lately in Egypt is using a substance
called cyclododecane.
Which is.
>> Spell that, [CROSSTALK] [LAUGH].
Cyclododecane please.
>> Don't ask me to spell that. Our conservators call it Magic Wax.
>> [LAUGH] I like that better.
>> [LAUGH] It's actually inconvenient,
in cosmetics and things.
You find that, as so many things that
archeologists use, it had [CROSSTALK]
another use first.
>> Yeah well, cosmetics is
better than you know, military
developments.
>> [CROSSTALK] I see, that's probably
true with our survey equipment and
things.
>> Oh that's true.
>> But in terms of cyclododecane, it
has one of the things that is super great
about it, it's, it's a solid wax that
doesn't go through a liquid phase
necessarily.
So, it goes straight from being solid to
being a gas.
And what this does, means is that it can be
put on something without interfering with
a substance itself and it will then
disappear.
It's sublimates, it simply goes into the
air.
>> Incredible.
>> So, you can melt it.
So, what we do is we take a burner out
into
>> Okay.
>> the field.
We melt it.
For instance, one, one very recent
application of this, that my grad
students were working on, we find ibis
mummies, the mummified birds.
They're very, very dry at this point.
And the cloth [CROSSTALK] is really
brittle and so to lift them without
damaging the cloth is extremely
difficult.
>> Mm-hm.
>> Now we find that we have hundreds of
these and we're not quite as careful.
But when we first were finding them we
were just, any little fiber of this cloth
we had to be.
>> [NOISE] You know, yeah, yeah Okay.
>> Exactly.
And so we would take out the
cyclododecane and we would melt it on
site, melt it over a burner.
And then use paint brushes very, very
carefully to apply a coat of this.
Sometimes you can put a coat of, of a
layer of medical gauze on top then.
And then put some more wax so that you
give it a structure.
>> Okay, give it a backing as it were.
>> Absolutely, we do this with painting
plaster.
>> Okay.
>> For instance too.
>> Uh-huh.
>> In the field.
And then it solidifies, and you can
remove it.
You can take it back to the house and
leave it to, to sublimate.
And, and once the wax is sublime, then
you have, you have your object in there.
It's been no chemical change in the
object.
The only change is that you've been able
to remove it to a different place.
>> Now that's interesting though, I've
heard of conservation methods that, you
know, seem suitable and safe in their
time that are subsequently found to be
maybe not such a good idea in a, you
know, sort of fixing the Parthenon with
iron clamps, which then rust and don't do
well in earthquakes and.
But, but we're good on this here?
>> Well, you're completely correct,
this is the ethic of conservation now, is
don't do any, any intervention that can
be undone.
And in a way this isn't an intervention,
this is simply strengthening something
long enough to remove it.
Any, any further consolidation that's
going to be done, is going to be done
back at the house to preserve it for a
long time.
You can't actually see an artifact when
it's covered in this wax at all.
We need the wax to go away in order to
study it.
But simply in terms of getting it from
the field into a stable environment in
the house.
>> How long does that take?
Let's say you're coming out of, you
think, oop, I ibis mummy, bring the
magic wax.
Just, I'm just curious is that like a ten
minute job, a.
>> [CROSSTALK] It depends on the size
and the condition of what you are looking
at.
It can take, really it can take ten
minutes.
It can take three hours.
So.
And then you've got to put a backing on
and remove it, remove it responsibly.
But of course not everything we find is
nearly so fragile.
>> No.

>> So, I mean you know.


>> Yes thank God for potsherds.
>> Exactly.
>> And then they go.
And so your, your basically your, your
once you get things out, they go back to
your, your, your, your palatial dig
house, or?
>> Oh, and it is a palatial dig house.
You know, there are really two categories
of things, of course.
There are the things that are never
going to be removed from the site.
Architecture, we're not going to take
offsite, so we have to deal with
conservation of that or recording of it,
analyzing it in situ.
>> Okay.
>> And then we have the artifactual
material, which is going to go back to
the house.
>> The, the first stop for us is simply
to analyze it.
So we bring it to the house where we have
work rooms inside, but we also have a
yard where we have little trays, if you
will.
> Mm-hm, mm-hm, mm-hm.
>> That are, are designed for us to lay
out ceramics or lithics by context.
>> Mm-hm, okay.
>> And record them.
Wash, record, draw.
>> So keeping.
>> Context follows the artifact all the
way through the system.
>> All the way through the system.
[CROSSTALK] Of course, otherwise there's
no point in collecting it.
>> You'd be surprised.
Well, yeah.
No, good.
So everything comes back to the house.
Every, the ceramics, I mean, not the
architecture.
But everything but architecture back to
the house and then sort of triage.
Certain people work on certain things or?
>> Absolutely.
And one of the most important jobs in the
house is that of the registrar.
Who is the person who performs the triage
and say's okay, what is needed?
>> Yeah.
>> What type of analysis?
What type of storage?
>> Mm-hm .
>> Making sure that the con, context
numbers get into the database.
>> Mm-hmm.
>> So, because of course this is what
we're after, we're after the information,
not the stuff itself.
>> Not the stuff itself.
There's, you really need a very strong
minded person to be registrar, because,
sometimes you're tired, it's hot.
You've been out there digging, they've
been sitting inside having a good time,
drinking lemonade.
And they'll come after you, saying, where
did this, are you sure, did you
record this?
And you sometimes you want to throttle
them, but they're the ones who keep order
in the system.
And you have to think about like a
forensic chain of evidence almost.
>> You do absolutely, you have to have
someone you can completely trust in that
position.
>> You said architecture has to,
obviously has to stay and you in some
cases, do you always conserve
architecture or are there other ways to,
you know, preserve it.
Other ways to leave it alone.
>> Most of the architecture that I have
been finding is mud brick and mud brick
is really - it's not a particularly strong
material.
You can't walk all over mud brick and
expect it to look the same.
>> Right.
>> On the one hand there are buildings
that are four thousand plus years old of
mud brick that are still standing.
On the other hand they can't become
tourist attractions in the ordinary
sense.
And in...
>> Yeah, people.
Yeah, touching, walking, okay.
>> Absolutely, [CROSSTALK] they can't
deal with traffic.
And so one of the things we do is we
back-fill at the end of every season,
every unit that we've excavated is filled
in.
The first layer we put in is sifted sand
because that's going to prot, protect and
preserve the architecture as best as
possible.
>> Okay.
>> But if we need to see it again,
we'll uncover it again.
It really would, we can see
deterioration.
Even in the span of a single season with
something that is exposed.
And so it simply would be irresponsible
not to cover things up.
>> Do you throw like a modern coin or
something?
When, when, when people back fill, which
is good archaeological practice.
There's always this, yeah we gotta put
something in to show that we were there,
there has been a disturbance of this
site.
So people don't say, oh, this is strange.
You know, thinking that, you know, that
there had never been an archaeologist
involved, but clearly something has
happened.
So what do you, what do you do?
>> Our favorite is a Twinkie.
There's, there's a Hostess plant in Egypt
and the, there are Twinkies on site every
day, every breakfast.
We have Twinkies after breakfast, so we
toss a Twinkie in.
>> And the Twinkie will preserve?
>> You better believe it.
>> I knew Twinkies weren't real.
I knew Twinkies were.
Oh my God.
>> And the wrapper, of course, Totally
inorganic, that.
>> [LAUGH] And where does this stuff
live?
Where, you know?
>> Sure, so there are, architecture is
going to live underground, [CROSSTALK]
right, with it's happy Twinkie.
>> With the happy Twinkie, yeah.
>> Absolutely, but the artifacts that
we find, really they're are sort of two
levels of preservation for these.
The things that are sort of bulk, bulk
artifacts, like ceramics.
>> Uh-huh, uh-huh.
>> those live in the house until
they're analyzed.
>> Okay.
>> After they've been analyzed, very
often, we re-bury the shards.
>> in, in, in, just, a pottery dumb
near the house.
>> In context still, or?
>> No, they're no longer in context.
Once, that's going to be an interesting
thing for someone to find in the future.
>> Uh-huh, that's an interesting
strategy.
That's, I'm not sure if every country would
let you do that, but.
>> Sure.
I mean, it's just a dump, more or less.
>> Yeah, okay.
>> but, because there isn't storage
space for all of this, with so many
projects working at Abydos with so
much produced, that, you, you can you can
see our sherd yard from Google Earth, in
fact.
>> We're going to look for that.
>> So, it's a lot of stuff, it's a lot
of stuff and we do need to get rid of it
once we've analyzed it.
Now, somethings, some small finds are not
going to be gotten rid of.
>> Okay.
Yeah, what do you keep?
Or what?
>> Human remains, for instance, we
usually keep.
>> Human remains.
>> And small artifacts that are not
ceramic, or shawbtis which sometimes
are ceramic.
Little statuettes, [CROSSTALK] amulets,
things like this, absolutely.
Stone tools we tend to keep, they're not
in as much bulk.
>> Things that are particularly fine or
of value, actually go into the government
magazines so that they're locked up.
>> And are they in Abydos.
There's a.
>> No, they're not in Abydos.
There's a, their regional magazines and
regional museums in fact all over Egypt.
And very fine things end up in museums.
>> What percentage would you say of
all, well, all the stuff you found in
Abydos actually makes it you know, to.
>> Percentage.
>> To the big time you know.
>> Percentage by weight, percentage by
number.
>> Any, any number you want to give me.
>> Sure.
I tend to register between about 50 and
300 objects.
It really depends on what we're finding.
>> Uh-huh, uh-huh.
>> After a five week season, so.
>> Mm-hm.
>> That's very small, compared to what
we find, we find tens of thousands of
sherds.
>> Right, and is there anything on
display in a big museum you can point out
and say, you know.
My project, my team found that.
>> There are things that are slated to
go on display when the conservation is
complete.
And I still have ask, access to these
artifacts.
So once they're in the government
magazine, if I need to study them, I
simply put in a permit application and
I'm allowed to.
>> That's very good.