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Lewis, A. Et Al. Wax on, Wax Off. 2010

Lewis, A. Et Al. Wax on, Wax Off. 2010

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Lewis, A. Et Al. Wax on, Wax Off. 2010
Lewis, A. Et Al. Wax on, Wax Off. 2010

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Trinidad Pasíes Arqueología-Conservación on Jan 16, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Inside The Conservator's Art
A behind-the-scenes look at conserving Egyptian artifacts at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum ofAnthropologyhttp://conservationblog.hearstmuseum.dreamhosters.com/?p=651 { 2010 11 30 }
 Wax on, wax off: Undoing early paraffin waxfield treatments
Early twentieth century archaeologists working in Egypt sometimes sought to preserve the surfaces ofrecently excavated artifacts by coating them with wax. Authorities like Flinders Petrie and Alfred Lucasrecommended protective beeswax and paraffin coatings. Wax was such a popular treatment material thatHoward Carter, the excavator of Tutankhamun’s tomb, even claimed to have employed paraffin wax totreat his mange-stricken pet dog!George A. Reisner (who excavated much of the museum’s Egyptian collection) and colleagues appliedparaffin wax to wooden and stone objects in order to prevent the polychrome surfaces from flaking off inresponse to factors like mechanical action, dimensional change of the underlying wood, and soluble salts.Many objects that were coated with wax in the early twentieth century now have dark, dull lookingsurfaces. Over time, slightly tacky paraffin wax attracts minute particles of dirt and grime. The build-up ofdirt and grime eventually causes the wax-coated surface to appear dark and opaque, sometimesobscuring painted or carved designs.
PAHMA 6-19890 (Naga ed-Deir, c. 2181-2040 BC). Delaminating limestone stela with carved design. The stela was immersed in paraffin wax (“parowax”) in 1914. The wax coating accounts for the dark grey color.
Before the exhibition of a wooden ka statue and wooden box from Naga ed-Deir, conservators sought toreduce thick paraffin wax coatings in order to reveal the painted surfaces below.
PAHMA 6-22886, ka statue (Naga ed-Deir, c. 2345-2040 BC), before treatment.
PAHMA 6-2068, lidded box (Naga ed-Deir, c. 2040-1782 BC,) during treatment.
After verifying the type of wax with scientific analysis, conservators used heat and mechanical action toreduce the paraffin wax coatings. Conservator Jane Williams revealed a previously near illegibleinscription on a wooden box lid by heating the wax with a tacking iron and wicking up the softened waxwith synthetic non-woven fabric.

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