2002 CONSERVATION
Karen Stamm, Metropolitan Museum, Conservator
Megan Emory,
Conservation Assistant
Connor McMahon, Conservation Assistant
Bridget Marx, Cataloguer
Reports from the end of the field season



Left to right: Karen Stamm, Megan Emory, and Connor McMahon at work in the lab in 2002.

Week Four - IRON CHUNKS AND ATHLETIC HUNKS:

Due to the four-day break, this has been a relatively short week, where we have been in the lab from Tuesday morning until this moment, Thursday afternoon. Well, let me take that back, we really haven't been in here the WHOLE time since Tuesday morning; they do let us out to eat occasionally.

Despite the shorter work week things have been hopping here in the lab. Finds are starting to come off the hill and from the FOD at a rapid rate and we are just now able to keep up. The conservators are constantly looking over their shoulders at the growing pile of finds and despite the large amount of work they eagerly embrace each new project.


Megan Emory and Connor McMahon busy in the conservation lab.

After viewing iron pieces on display at other Etruscan museums, Megan has been eagerly awaiting all newly found iron fragments from the hill. While the encrusted, burly pieces had evoked such scorn in the hearts (and fingers, since it is particularly difficult to clean) of past conservators, she has fully embraced each iron piece. The hill did not disappoint. Robert Vander Poppen, who was present at the initial introduction of Megan and a discernable iron fibula in a Volterran museum, sent Megan an entire bag of iron chunks. The rust colored, lumpish, clumpish, frumpish hunks kept her busy for hours and cured her of her deep desire to discover Poggio Colla's own discernable iron object.


Megan Emory.

Connor and Karen are continuing to work on their bucchero projects from last week. These projects continue not only because they are tricky, but also because of the time and attention given to each new day's crop of finds from the excavation.


Connor McMahon.

With Ann in the lab we have all been enjoying a more academic atmosphere. She has had two of her students, Candace and Andrea, with her in the afternoon reviewing black glaze fragments. Joins to our kylikes have been made, and excitingly they are of nude, male athletes! They have also discovered "new" shapes for Poggio Colla's repertoire, mostly various types of bowls and drinking cups. Ohh, those CRAZY Etruscans!!!! The students will return next week to work on material from their trenches where they are currently excavating and will integrate their discoveries into their final papers. Ann's black glaze join finding frenzy has resulted in work for Bridget and Marla.


Ann Steiner analyzing fineware from previous seasons.


Black glaze sherds from Poggio Colla under study by Ann Steiner.

Marla has been working on some beautiful drawings of different bases, complete with the most intricate palmette and lotus designs. Bridget has been working hard to keep everything straight, as small fragments are moved from find and sherd bags to catalogued objects, to joins with previous catalogued objects, and finally like the prodigal son, back to its original sherd bag (if the join doesn't fit).


Marla Ziegler drawing a black glaze rim.

 


Bridget Marx hard at work on the catalog.

Highlight of the Week: Our highlight must be plural this week. Over the four-day weekend, each member of the lab staff, despite having traveled independently, had a moment of Etruscan "weakness." While either floating down the canals of Venice, meandering across the Chianti wine region, or embracing a pure Roman Holiday, each of us was suddenly seized with the irrepressible desire to search for the nearest Etruscan museum and then examine every detail of the objects on display, mesmerized by their spell. Luckily many of the wondrous objects were inspiring enough to encourage us to return to our own little excavation and continue working, even despite two of us having come face to face with an Etruscan cowboy.

Week Five - Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub:

The magazzino, housed in the lower level of a youth circolo, is the center of the town's youth activities. Our ceiling is their floor. We have decided to take a positive spin on the evening tuba lessons, but the constant game of handball is a different story. At first the rhythmic beat of the handball game had a tendency to keep us in the groove all day long, but the steady staccato has taken a turn to a frantic, frenzied crescendo. Due to the flooding rains, all of Vicchio's youth have decided to head for the cover of the youth circolo and partake in a handball tournament. As we sit in the magazzino, lovingly mending Etruscan pottery, our nerves are shot due to the constant lub dub, lub dub of the ball hitting the walls and floor above. This steady lub dub was so great in fact, that we were unable to hear the drip, drop, drip, drop of the leaky light fixture in the side room of the magazzino. It wasn't until Marla, our illustrator, felt water on the floor, that we noted the important distinction between the drip drop and the lub dub.


Marla Ziegler mopping (left) and surrounded by the tools of the illustration trade while drawing (right).

The torrential down pour was appropriate this week, for it mirrored the mood in the lab. We were saddened by the departure of Ann Steiner, our black glaze expert. She left first thing this morning, and it was a quiet day in the magazzino without her, no more: "Ohh guys! Ohh guys! Look at this!" as she would make important discoveries amongst our black glaze. Our only reprieve from this gloom is the fact that her students, Andrea and Candace, will continue to stop in and look at our black glaze, and we presume they are as charming as she is.


Professor Ann Steiner shows her students, Candace Grove and Andrea Mall,
how to analyze black glaze ceramic finds from Poggio Colla in the magazzino.

As for the business side of the lab: We are currently wrapping up several of our season long projects. Megan's terracotta jigsaw puzzle (a pan tile from PF 6, 2001) is now complete and being studied by Patricia Lulof. Connor, while still working on the fills in the bucchero chalice, has been keeping busy with other projects as well. The most interesting being what at first appeared to be a giant lump of tile, but has turned into a plastered terracotta… something, the jury is still out on its original purpose.


Connor McMahon sculpts filler for a bucchero chalice.

Karen, who supervises from the back corner of the lab, has been clutching the same bucchero vase for the past three weeks. While it might at first seem long to work on one project, the results have been stupendous. The oinochoe, from PC 18, went into the clasp of Karen in numerous fragments, but has emerged from its cocoon in the unexpected form of Big Bird, and therefore it is quite possibly not an oinochoe, as originally thought. If she finishes it before the end of the season Marla can use her new curvy tools to illustrate the vessel!


Conservator Karen Stamm reconstructing a bucchero vessel.

Bridget, meanwhile has usurped the administrative intern for her own. Susan McIntyre has been spending time in the lab working on projects for Greg Warden and development issues of Poggio Colla. Unfortunately, for her and fortunately for Bridget, any time Susan has a spare minute, Bridget immediately hands her a project. Good thing Susan has the ability to multi-task.


Susan McIntyre helping Bridget Marx in the magazzino.

Highlight of the week: In the middle of the monotonous cleaning of iron, provided of course by the built in metronome of the handball game above, Connor's chair suddenly gave way. The left leg of the chair split one way, Connor the other way, whereby he came just inches from crushing a bucket of grotti. Thankfully the grotti's safe.


Megan Emory with her pan tiles; Connor McMahon and Ann Steiner discuss finds .

 


Andrea Santoni examining our bucchero.

 

Week Six - The History of Mr. Ceramic E. Sherd:

As the season draws to an end, we thought it would be vital to provide a little glimpse into the life of Mr. Ceramic E. Sherd. (Etruscan is his middle name).

(Dramatic music here) Born from the earth, excavators as midwives, Mr. Sherd emerges into the sunlight for the first time in over 2000 years, ready to begin his journey from just a dirt covered ceramic fragment into Super Catalogued Sherd Status. After being deemed interesting and unique enough from all the other sherds, Mr. Sherd is tagged by the trench supervisor as a find and given a preliminary find number. Next, Mr. Sherd travels down the winding paths of Poggio Colla and through the streets of Vicchio to the lab, where his arrival is immediately documented by the Cataloguer. She records every find that enters through the double doors of the lab and then tracks its progress through conservation, cataloguing, illustration, photography, research and finally storage. Mr. Sherd is no different.

After the initial record process, Mr. Sherd is passed onto the Conservators for treatment. The Conservators want Mr. Sherd to be cleaned so he looks his best for photos, but it is more important for Mr. Sherd to be a stable individual. If they find his black glaze, his only clothing, is coming off they stop full nudity by consolidating the glaze with plastic resin (Paraloid B-72 is a favorite). During conservation, Mr. Sherd often reveals some of his more subtle attributes, like some sexy rouletting. Conservators work with the Researcher and Cataloguer to bring full light to these finer details so Mr. Sherd can be known in all his glory.

Mr. Sherd is now more than just a find. Returning triumphantly to the Cataloguer, he is further documented in the Catalogue Database. His measurements are taken, any flaws noted, his birth spot recorded and most importantly he is described in full detail. Any tid-bit of information that can help future archaeologists piece Mr. Sherd into the greater historic fabric of Poggio Colla is recorded at this time.

Further recording takes place in other ways as well. Mr. Sherd, as all proper gentlemen do, has his portrait done by the resident Illustrator. She examines every side of him, measures not once but twice, and finally prepares a pencil drawing of the fellow. Once he approves, the drawing is inked and completed.


Mr. Sherd's photo shoot by Director Greg Warden.
Shown is a bucchero vessel reconstructed by Karen Stamm.

The high life continues with the photo shoot of Mr. Sherd. Bright lights, different cameras, different backdrops and filters help to show off Mr. Sherd's best side. He's photographed with both traditional black and white print and color slide film in addition to digital images. Mr. Sherd has entered the twenty first century.

After the exposure, Mr. Sherd has a bit of repose, where he is shelved with the other catalogued finds from his trench for the remainder of the season. Occasionally he is visited by those that found him, occasionally by those that admire him, occasionally by those that study him. But this rest is brief, for at some point, Mr. Sherd needs to have a hustled and bustled three days, as he is prepared for his final and proper home, the museum basement.


Mr. Sherd is visited by experts: Prof. Daniele Vitali and archaeologists from Monterenzio.

This is where the lab now finds itself, on the threshold of having to find a new home for Mr. Sherd and all of his friends from his trench as well as all of his neighboring friends from across the entire excavation. Mr. Sherd is no longer alone in the lab, but part of a much larger picture. First, he will be grouped together with sherds of similar fabrics and then boxed. While he is settling into his new home, the Cataloguer has to note on both the original entrance documentation and within the Catalogue Database where Mr. Sherd finally ended up. His drawing and photography records must also be noted as well as the gussying up that he received in Conservation. He is now a fully documented member of Poggio Colla and can be moved with the rest of the sherds into the museum basement, where he will spend the next nine months awaiting to emerge once again and greet the sherds that will be born from the earth next year.

Highlight of the Week: Mr. Sherd finds mate and joins with the soon to be Mrs. Sherd. A little explanation… this week a bucchero ceramic sherd was removed from PC 23. The ever-astute cataloguer noted that a similar sherd was already in the collection and made a join with a bucchero sherd from 1995.


Mr. Sherd is joined with friends. Presented by the lovely Megan Emory.

 

Week Seven - Final Report:


Karen Stamm and Bridget Marx exhausted by the end of the season.


Packing the conservation lab for the move at season's end.

It's truly amazing how just 24 hours ago we were sitting in a room brimming with ancient Etruscan bucchero chalices, terracotta roof tiles, fineware vessels, and pithoi (which we kept tripping over) and now the same space sits empty. Quiet. Still. No more afternoon drop offs of finds from the trench supervisors, no more visits from the directors asking: "so what's new?," no more of our local friends stopping to stare in the window to see the daily progress, and no more of that horrible dead fish smell wafting in from the dumpsters right outside the window.


Megan sitting outside the lab awaiting move and avoiding smell of dumpsters.

As veterans of the Poggio Colla Lab, and upon reflection from this time last year, Karen and Bridget are pleased and proud of the way things have moved and happened within the last few days. Because we were too eager to please last year, we were pushed to our limits, conserving, processing, cataloguing, and packing finds for long-term storage in one night (and I'm talking from 6 PM until 3 AM here people). That was just too taxing. This year things were different, sure we might have made a few enemies by insisting that finds be turned in a day and a half before the big move, but the welfare of the finds was foremost in our thoughts and concerns. And rightly so, all finds are now currently sitting in the museum basement, safe, secure, and well ordered; plus we have our mental sanity, unlike this time last year.

Of course we couldn't have done it without a lot of help from others on the excavation: Director Greg Warden returned to the lab as photographer and helped to insure our most important finds were digitally documented. The trench supervisors just took a load of our supplies to Guardia, freeing our time to continue last minute paperwork and this web report, and for that we thank them. The students, who although having orders barked at them during the move, carefully and delicately carried eight years worth of beloved objects into the museum basement.


Students helping Bridget and the conservators move the magazzino into the museum in Vicchio.

But most important, we must do a "shout out" to our biggest joys these last two weeks, Susan McIntyre and Lynn Makowsky. Susan, who was in the magazzino space as Greg's intern, often found herself doing Bridget's whimsies. She did data processing with a smile, organized sherd bags without a complaint, stared cross-eyed at the computer to process digital images and cut tags with swift fingers and no grievances. Basically, all thankless tasks were done by her and now is the time to say THANK YOU!!! And Lynn, we wish we could have cloned her so she could continue working on the hill and in the lab. The experience she brought with her was invaluable and her "organizational intuition" was just what we needed in the final days of the lab. We in the lab feel that not only have we had the opportunity to work with two wonderful volunteers, but also that we have gained two good friends.


Lynn Makowsky outside the museum guarding boxes of finds.

And finally, we can't go without thanking our two conservation interns: Megan Emery and Connor McMahon. For the both of them, site work was a new experience and they came through the frustration of working on small sherds, incomplete vessels, and grotty bronze bits, knowing that while the pieces are not museum quality, they are invaluable to the great spectrum of Etruscan history. They were superb conservators, who were able to continue working on objects while at the same time preparing the lab for the end of the season. Karen and Bridget would like to thank them for all of the help and companionship that they have given to us over the past seven weeks.

Well, we hear the music playing and we are well aware that we are running over our allotted two minute "acceptance speech" time, therefore let us progress with a bit of an end of season wrap up.
This past week has been busy in the lab because of the final days of excavation on the hill and in the FOD. The most impressive group of finds was also the largest. Justin Winkler over the course of a few days managed to fill the lab with boxes and tubs and piles of pithos fragments. Every time we turned around, Justin was appearing in the double doors of the lab, waddling under the weight of a pithos, and then after carefully setting it down for us to examine, he would bound back to the Commune van for more fragments. Although tough, the conservators had to resist the urge to make joins and put the large vessels together right then and there. All three pithoi (S, M, and L -- small, medium and large) were properly document and stored for next year (the pithos retrieval device appropriately became the pithos storage device).


Megan Emory, Bridget Marx, and Karen Stamm display the three pithoi removed from Trench PC 22.

Equal in weight was the volume of roof tile extracted from PF 6 and 9 by Robert "Base" Belanger. Thankfully, the tile fragments were stored both in the field and then the pottery shed at Vigna before making their final move to the museum basement. Everyone should also note that the 30 + boxes of tile sitting on the steps of the museum basement caused quite a stir during market day in Vicchio. Every Italian walking by had to stop and examine the tile, impressed with the ancient roofing system so similar to today's. We did find humor in the one gentleman quite concerned about how we were going to get the tile back to America. Thank goodness it was only moving into the basement.


Students sorting boxes from the magazzino outside the museum.

And so, everything returns to the basement, where we began our summer, we now end it. Objects in the basement and an empty lab, both awaiting the promises of what is to come next year.


Bridget Marx with empty shelves in the magazzino.


Karen Stamm before a blank white wall in the magazzino.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: We were lucky enough to be invited to the re-opening of the Casa di Giotto after a two-year renovation. The re-opening was celebrated with a large four course medieval dinner and plenty of "entertainment." While we enjoyed the jesters and jugglers, the readings of Dante's Divine Comedy were a bit much, for not only was it read in Italian, it was Medieval Italian to boot. AND it was read before dinner for a good hour and after dinner for another hour. Everyone was squirming in their seats, not just us Americans. But it was all worth it, for not only were we at the opening of the house of the father of the Renaissance (yeah yeah), but the jugglers, while on stilts managed to zero in on the fact that our co-director Dr. Michael Thomas is a dead ringer for David Hasselhoff.


Karen Stamm reconstructing the askos from Trench PC 18, shown completed at right.

 


Mud brick from Trench PC 19.

 


Flanged roof tile from Trench PC 19.

 


Volterran skyphos fragments from Trench PF 6.

 


Kantharos rim from Trench PC 23.

 


Bowl profile from Trench PF 10.

 


Bowl from Trench PF 10.

 


Engraved gemstone from Trench PC 19.

 


Fragment of a black glaze vessel with rouletting from Trench PC 22.

 

 


Meltdown of the Principessa.

 


Megan Emory places conserved and catalogued finds in storage.

 


Connor McMahon packs and labels boxes full of conservation supplies.

 


Marla Ziegler drew 138 objects this season.


Conservators' still life: tricks of the trade.

 


Karen Stamm, Megan Emory, and Bridget Marx present the Bling Awards at season's end.