Çatalhöyük is located in the Konya Plain, approximately 45km from Konya. It is a Neolithic settlement first inhabited in 7,4000 BCE. The landscape consisted largely of wetland, rather than the contrasting dust and farmland we see today. In July I spent around three weeks on site helping out the conservation department.
My experience to date has been limited to working within the lab at Cardiff University. Here, the environment is managed. In the lab on site there was no such control. In the shelters on site this problem was often exaggerated; the north shelter can reach 48°C during the summer and drop below zero during the winter months. With this, the humidity can vary from near 100% to 40% throughout the year. Materials used must be able to withstand huge changes in environment, while still maintaining the desired properties.
For wall painting consolidation we used 5% Paraloid B44, a methyl methacrylate and ethyl acrylate copolymer, in 50/50 acetone/ethanol. Including ethanol to reduce volatility and increase working time. B44 has a higher glass transition termperature than that of B72 at 60°C, which means it will remain rigid.
With no climate control in the storage facilities there was a heightened need to coat unstable objects, such as those made from metal. It also meant that some objects could be not preserved.
The lack of climate control meant that the lab itself could be hot and humid at times. I expected this to affect the working properties of the adhesives I used, however, it only noticeably extended setting time. Paraloid B72 at 40% in 50/50 acetone/ethanol and cellulose nitrate both behaved as anticipated. Although, there was a slight problem with stringiness during application.
Another major difference in practice was the lack of need to wear gloves. This can be attributed to how most of the objects were excavated and lifted without wearing gloves. There was also dust everywhere, and this meant that it was nigh impossible to really clean anything. I carried out all my work on paper that could easily be lifted. This minimized the dust build up, by creating an easy to clean surface. Much of the work I carried out was also dirty; including shaving the excess mud brick from a removed wall painting.
I found the limited research resources refreshing. Much of my decision making was made based on prior knowledge and experience, and when in doubt I would ask my host for advice. This allowed me to build confidence in my actions. Much of the work I did in the lab centered around conserving animal bone that had been excavated, and with this experience I have come away confident in my ability to adhere objects. I’m hoping to bring this confidence back to Cardiff in September and apply it there.
I would like to thank my host Ashley Lingle for the opportunity and her support. Also, The Zibby Garnet Travel Scholarship for helping to fund the experience.