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Thursday, May 31 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Architecture + Archaeological Conservation) Loves Me like a Rock: Care and Preservation of Ancient Graffiti in a Rock-Cut Kushite Temple

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This talk describes the preservation of ancient graffiti in a rock-cut temple at the site of El Kurru in Sudan. El Kurru is the location of a royal burial ground of ancient Kush (a region located in modern-day northern Sudan), and the site encompasses multiple pyramid burials as well as two rock-cut funerary temples. The sandstone temple that is the focus of this project was built during the late Napatan period (ca. 350 BC), and its walls and columns are heavily inscribed with devotional graffiti from the Meroitic period (ca. 100 BC – AD 100). It is an impressive and unique structure, a source of pride for local residents, and an interesting and accessible feature for visitors. The ancient graffiti it contains provide a unique glimpse into the lives of individuals in antiquity, providing information about their thoughts, values, and daily lives. El Kurru’s sandstone monuments suffer from granular disintegration and other serious condition problems. Although the conservation of archaeological heritage is often complicated, it is especially challenging in Sudan due to a fragile national economy and comprehensive intertnational sanctions against the country (except - these were just lifted in October 2017! - so it might get better!). For these reasons, a holistic approach has been used to preserve the graffiti. Work began with a criterion-anchored rating (CAR) condition survey designed to identify, prioritize, and monitor condition issues. Chemical analysis of the stone was conducted, and treatment options including alkoxysilane consolidation and grout injection were explored. Preventive conservation strategies for the temple, including a protective shelter and increased community education, have also been developed. Finally, reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) was used to document the graffiti’s condition and create a virtual, visual catalog. This talk emphasizes key principles for guiding conservation at archaeological sites: practicality, flexibility, sustainability, and placing a high value on the contributions and wishes of stakeholders.

avatar for Suzanne Davis

Suzanne Davis

Curator and Head of Conservation, University of Michigan
Suzanne Davis is a senior associate curator and head of the Conservation Department at the University of Michigan's Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, where she oversees preservation of the museum’s 100,000+ artifacts and historic building and directs conservation for multiple Kelsey... Read More →

avatar for Janelle Batkin-Hall

Janelle Batkin-Hall

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation, National Museum of African Art
Janelle Batkin-Hall is a Mellon Fellow in objects conservation at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. She holds an M.A. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College. Janelle earned undergraduate degrees in photography and... Read More →
avatar for Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts

Conservator, University of Michigan
Caroline Roberts joined the Kelsey Museum as a conservator in 2014. Prior to this, Carrie worked as a conservation fellow at the Kelsey, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She holds a Master of Science in art conservation from the University of Delaware... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom C Marriott Marquis Houston