History of Conservation in Kaman-Kalehöyük, Turkey

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By: Alice Boccia Paterakis

Kaman-Kalehöyük is a rural settlement along the ancient Silk Road trade route dating from the Bronze Age (2300 BCE) through the Ottoman Empire. The site is located 100 km southeast of Ankara and 3 km east of Kaman (Figure 1). Excavation has been conducted annually by the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology (JIAA) of the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan (MECCJ) since 1986. One of the objectives of the excavation at Kaman-Kalehöyük has been to construct a cultural chronology of the site. Cultural levels have been traced through the second millenium BCE from the Assyrian Colony Period, the Old Hittite Kingdom, and the Hittite Empire Period. The period after the collapse of the Hittite Empire, during the Iron Age from the twelfth to eighth centuries BCE, has been previously called the “Dark Age” based on a lack of cultural evidence. The JIAA has conducted yearly archaeological surveys in Central Anatolia from 1986 to 2007 resulting in the addition of two new sites to their excavation roster: Yassıhöyük and Büklükale (Figure 1). Yassıhöyük is a mound site in Kırşehir province. It is located approximately 170 km from Ankara and about 30 km east from Kaman-Kalehöyük. Büklükale is a mound site located about 100 km from Ankara, approximately 40 km west of Kaman-Kalehöyük. The JIAA conducted a magnetic survey, a topographic survey, a photographic survey, and a surface collection survey of the two sites in 2007 and 2008. Excavations have been held annually to uncover extensive architectural remains at these two sites.

Figure 1) Map showing three excavations of the JIAA © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.


The JIAA has recently completed an ambitious building project with the goal of creating an international center for the study of Anatolian archaeology (Figure 2). The new JIAA was constructed next to the original JIAA camp. This new building project poses several new challenges for the conservation department involving expansion, relocation, storage, and environmental monitoring of the collection. The artifacts from Kaman-Kalehöyük, that had been on display at the Kirşehir Archaeological Museum 40 kilometers from the site, have been moved to the new Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology that opened to the public in 2010. The new JIAA camp and Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology are located next to each other, approximately two kilometers from the Kaman-Kalehöyük site.

Figure 2) New Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology (left), new JIAA (center), old JIAA (right) © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

Figure 2) New Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology (left), new JIAA (center), old JIAA (right) © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

The Conservation Department was established in 1991 by Glenn Wharton. Today it consists of the Director of Conservation, Alice Boccia Paterakis, the Preventive Conservator, Melissa Mariano, and a Field Conservator and one or two assistant conservators who are hired each year. The goals of the Conservation program include 1) conservation education for conservators, archaeologists, and related specialists, 2) distribution of conservation information, 3) on-site treatment of the movable and immovable heritage, 4) treatment of the movable heritage in the laboratory, and 5) preservation of the collection in storage and on display in the Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology 1.

The expansion of the JIAA, encompassing two new excavation sites and a new museum, has included the establishment of a new conservation laboratory. In 2014 the conservation laboratory acquired a Faxitron 43855D 130 kV x-ray unit for the examination, identification, and conservation of the incoming small finds. Analytical investigation using XRF and FTIR contributes to collaborative projects between visiting scientists, archaeologists, zooarchaeologists, human osteologists, archaeobotanists, and conservators. An International Workshop on “Techniques and Applications for Portable X-Ray Fluorescence in Archaeology” was held on Friday 8th May, 2015.

A large percent of the conservator’s work involves aiding the archaeologists in the consolidation and lifting of fragile objects in the field while facilitating C-14 dating and dendrochronology. A major part of the conservation program at Kaman consists of an annual conservation student internship program. Two conservation students from university graduate programs are selected each year and given the opportunity to carry out treatments in the field and conservation laboratory. The students are provided a small stipend. The conservation student interns select a research project dedicated to a particular aspect of the collection that is published in the annual excavation journal, Anatolian Archaeological Studies.

Conservation workshops have been offered on bronze objects (Glenn Wharton), ceramics (Tony Sigel), conservation methods in the field (Claire Dean), and material analysis (Nancy Odegaard and Scott Carroll). Conservation training is offered annually during the archaeology field schools and the museology workshops for Turkish archaeologists, museum curators, and conservators.

Preventive Conservation is given major emphasis at Kaman. Recently the RPSystem (Revolutionary Preservation System) has been adopted for the stabilization and storage of iron and copper alloys by providing a desiccated and anoxic microenvironment for the metal artifacts (Figure 3). The storage of archaeological metal in the RPSystem may serve as an alternative to the desalination of iron or as a back-up stabilization procedure for those objects that have not responded to desalination and stabilization by chemical means. If used as a passive form of stabilization the RPSystem can alleviate the use of chemicals and avoid the problems associated with the disposal of toxic substances such as alkaline sulfite for the treatment of iron 2. The RPSystem can also serve as a temporary means of stabilization until the objects can undergo conservation treatment. The bags may be closed with reusable clips to afford easy access before and/or during conservation, registration, recording, photography, etc. of the object prior to forming a more permanent closure by heat sealing. The oxygen content inside those Escal bags containing oxygen absorbers is monitored with an OpTech-O2 Platinum, an optical fluorescence O2 analyzer (Mocon Company, www.mocon.com) (Figure 4). Silica gel may be used in place of the RPSystem oxygen absorber/dessicant, greatly reducing the cost. The cost of one heat-sealed RPSystem Escal bag measuring 17 cm L x 22 cm W (external dimensions), and containing one RPSystem oxygen/moisture scavenger and one RPSystem oxygen indicator, was 1.50 $ in 2009. Preventive conservation on the macroscale at the JIAA involves covering all three of the excavations at the end of each dig season.

Figure 3) RPSystem of anoxic and desiccated storage for metals © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

Figure 3) RPSystem of anoxic and desiccated storage for metals © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

Figure 4) Monitoring the oxygen content in RPSystem Escal bags with the OpTech-O2 Platinum analyzer © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

Figure 4) Monitoring the oxygen content in RPSystem Escal bags with the OpTech-O2 Platinum analyzer © Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

Twenty Conservation Field Notes written in 1999 and 2002 and printed by the JIAA in English and Turkish can be downloaded here as pdfs. The most recent issues of the JIAA excavation journal, Anatolian Archaeological Studies, are also available on the JIAA website that include all conservation articles. All articles in Anatolian Archaeological Studies relevant to conservation, preservation, material science, and archaeological investigation have been abstracted in AATA Online, Abstracts of International Conservation Literature.

Find out more about the JIAA and its excavations here, and for the conservation blog please click here.

How Attendance at ASOR Annual Meetings can benefit the Conservator and Conservation:

New technologies are being developed that aid in the study, exploration, interpretation, measurement, reconstruction, restoration, and presentation of ancient sites, buildings, and artifacts that are of interest to the archaeologist as well as the archaeological conservator. The ASOR 2014 Annual Meeting proved to be an invaluable resource to learn about these new technologies that may be used in many ways for the preservation of the cultural heritage. With the rapid increase in the rate and quantity of data acquisition in this digital age tools for organizing and processing this data are absolutely vital. The development of these tools has brought to the forefront the need for standardization and the designation of international standards to facilitate the exchange of information globally.

I will take the new information I acquired during the conference back to the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology in Turkey where I serve as Director of Conservation for the Kaman-Kalehöyük, Yassıhöyük and Büklükale excavations. Tools such as ArchField (real time 3D field recording tool), OpenDig (descriptive notes about the dig), and ArchaeoStor (used in the field for managing objects) are of particular interest. The excavation team can compare these with the methods and instruments they are currently using to determine any opportunities for upgrades or improvements. In the conservation department we are especially interested in the multispectral photographic techniques since they can be carried out with a relatively small budget without special training. We have already used a portable XRF spectrometer at Kaman and would like to acquire a portable FTIR and the combined portable XRD/XRF spectrometers for increased efficiency in the examination and analysis of artifacts. The Kaman-Kalehöyük Museum of Archaeology is equipped with an interactive virtual reality “tour” of the ancient site similar to those demonstrated at the annual meeting. 3D imaging software programs such as Karnak Digital are of great interest to me as an educator in conservation both at Kaman and in my classes in the undergraduate Art Conservation program at Scripps College in Claremont, CA.

The ASOR 2014 Annual Meeting proved to be of great interest to me on account of its multi-disciplinary organization incorporating not only historical information but the modern tools with which this information can be acquired, manipulated, and best adapted for the preservation of the world’s cultural heritage on the nano level, micro level, macro level, and global level. I encourage all conservators to participate in the ASOR annual meetings.

1. [Paterakis, A. B. 2011. “Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Central Anatolia: Kaman-Kalehöyük”, News in Conservation, IIC, London, 25, 2011, 10-12. https://www.iiconservation.org/system/files/publications/journal/2011/b2011_4.pdf]

2. [Paterakis, A.B. and L. Hickey-Friedman. 2011. “Stabilization of Iron Artifacts from Kaman-Kalehöyük: A Comparison of Chemical and Environmental Methods”, Studies in Conservation, 56, 3, 2011, 179- 190. https://www.iiconservation.org/node/2923

Paterakis, A.B. and M. Mariano. 2013. “Oxygen Absorbers and Desiccants in the Protection of Archaeological Iron: Maintaining Some Control”, in Metal 2013: Proceedings of the ICOM Committee for Conservation Metals Working Group, Edinburgh, Scotland, 185-191. ICOM-CC Metals Working Group http://www.icom-cc.org/31/]

If you have presented at an ASOR Annual Meeting in the last three years, and are interested in writing a blog post on your paper or research, please contact our Digital Media Specialist, Kaitlynn Anderson.


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