Buckling Down for Conservation in Albania

As a conservator for the Lofkënd Archaeological Project for the last three seasons, I usually spend my time conserving materials excavated from the tumulus. This year, I also worked on materials from the Lofkënd Survey Project to help the Lofkënd team understand the use of the areas around the tumulus and identify possible sites. Mostly pottery and tile fragments were collected, as well as lithics. Two pieces, however, made their way to the lab for further cleaning and reassembly.

One find consisted of two fragments from the handle of a vessel. Fellow conservator Alma Bardho got right to work cleaning the fragments and joining them together using an archival acrylic resin. Though only the handle of the vessel was found, it’s of interest because the fabric of the ceramic is similar to Iron Age matte painted vessels and fragments found at the Lofkënd tumulus.

I have been working on a belt buckle believed to possibly be from the Ottoman period. The buckle was found in an eroded area near where we were surveying. It is made from a copper alloy and has an organic decoration. The recesses of the decorated area were filled with colored opaque glass — orange, blue, green and white. The buckle is very beautiful and ornate, and I jumped at the chance to clean it.

Because the buckle was in such good condition, it didn’t need a lot of treatment. The metal was not very corroded and only required light cleaning with wooden sticks and a scalpel. The glass has suffered some weathering and appears somewhat flaky in areas, but overall was in fairly good condition. Cleaning these areas was a little tricky because they are so delicate, and it involved very slow and gentle swabbing with ethanol and water to soften the soil on it. The buckle has taken a little longer to clean than expected, but is certainly worth the time when you see the vibrant colors of the glass after the soil is removed. Time is running out on our project and the conservation lab will soon have to be packed up, but I hope to have the treatment completed before then so the piece can be photographed by the project photographer before it is packed for storage.

Vanessa Muros, UCLA
Staff Research Associate in the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials

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