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Friday, June 1 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Objects + Archaeological Conservation) Gold Working at Ur: A Collaborative Project to Better Understand Ancient Gold Smithing

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This paper presents recent research on gold artifacts from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, ca. 2450-2100 BCE and proposes some possible methods for their manufacture. Sir Leonard Woolley excavated these artifacts at the site of Tell al-Muqayyar (ancient Ur) in southern Iraq in the 1920s-1930’s as part of a project sponsored by the Penn Museum and the British Museum. Iraq’s 1924 Antiquities Law provided for a division of finds, and half the material went to the Iraq Museum, with a quarter going to the Penn Museum and a quarter going to the British Museum. The initial data were collected as part of the Ur Digitization Project, a joint initiative between the Penn Museum and the British Museum to digitize objects and records at both institutions. The collaborative nature of the Ur digitization project fostered interdisciplinary research at the Penn Museum. These relationships have continued beyond the Ur Digitization Project and so too has the examination of the gold from Ur. Initial analysis of the gold from Ur focused on objects from Private Grave (PG) 1422. It has since expanded to include a diverse selection of gold items from the Royal Cemeteries as new research has been conducted in preparation for the re-installation of the Middle East galleries at the Museum. This paper will focus on three distinct object types, gold vessels, gold jewelry, and gold fillets. All the data presented here were captured non-invasively using digital X-radiography and digital photomicrographs. While X-radiography and microscopy are not new techniques for the examination of archaeological objects, new developments in digital processing allows for better data collection that can highlight features previously difficult to capture. The present study combines the knowledge of conservators, archaeometallurgists, and archaeologists to better understand how the gold vessels and adornments from the royal cemeteries may have been manufactured. This interdisciplinary study places the objects within their archaeological context as well as highlights which aspects of their manufacture are significant.

avatar for Tessa de Alarcon

Tessa de Alarcon

Project Conservator, Penn Museum
Tessa de Alarcon has been a Project Conservator at the Penn Museum since 2012. She received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2004 where she majored in studio art and minored in archaeology, and her M.A. from the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic... Read More →


Moritz Jansen

Teaching Specialist for Archaeometallurgy for the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials, Penn Museum
Moritz Jansen has been the Teaching Specialist for Archaeometallurgy at the new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials at the Penn Museum since October 2015. Before he came to the Penn Museum he was employed as a Research Fellow in the Department for Archaeometallurgy... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Richard Zettler

Dr. Richard Zettler

Associate Curator-in-Charge of Penn Museum’s Near East Section, Penn Museum
Richard L. Zettler is an archaeologist specializing in Mesopotamia, the region occupied by modern Iraq and Syria. He received his MA and PhD (1984) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. He worked at Nippur, early Mesopotamia’s religious center... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 9:00am - 9:30am MDT
Texas Ballroom B Marriott Marquis Houston