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econservation

the online magazine No. 21, September 2011

REVIEWS

PRESERVATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS IN SITU (PARIS)


Review by Mike Corfield and Jim Williams

2327 May 2011 Copenhagen, Denmark Organised by: Department of Conservation, National Museum of Denmark

The fourth of the conferences on the Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ (PARIS) was held in Copenhagen from 23rd to 27th May. Previ ous conferences have been held in London (1996 and 2001) and Amsterdam (2006). The conferenc es are particularly focussed on the survival of ar chaeological evidence (artefacts, environmental evidence, stratigraphic and contextual informa tion as well as structural remains) when the envi ronment of sites are affected by anthropogenic or natural changes. Past conferences have focussed on the nature of the ground environment, how archaeological evidence changes through time and what the impact is of short and long term changes. Much of the earlier discussion was fo cussed on wetland environments and saturated urban deposits, partly because that was where a great deal of the observations of change had been undertaken and also because the impacts of change were most readily seen in desiccated wetland soils. There was also a predominantly northern European bias in the papers presented. The fourth conference showed a marked broad ening of contributions, both geographically and in the subject matter. The bias towards Europe remained, with strong representation from Den mark, the Netherlands, Norway and the United
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Kingdom and lesser contingents from Eire, Swe den, Finland, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Croatia and Azerbaijan. Single parti cipants were from Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and the USA, while the southern hemisphere was rep resented by Australia and New Zealand. PARIS has become global! The programme covered a wide range of topics and was split between four themes: Degradation of archaeological remains Monitoring and mitigation case studies Protocols standards and legislation Preserving archaeological remains in situ can we document it works? Theme 1, Degradation of archaeological remains included twelve papers. Because of the difficul ties involved in evaluating the results from in vivo experiments, microcosms in which the range of variables can be controlled are invaluable and we were given presentations using this method to assess the decay rates for wood and to evaluate impacts on the physicochemical and microbio logy of wetlands caused by leaching from wood treated with copperarsenicchromium preservative. These were described and included follow up work in the field to validate the study.
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Roundtable participants, from left to right: Jane Sidell, Mark Pollard, Hans Huisman, Jens Rytter, Vicky Richards, Mike Corfield, Henk Kars, Jim Williams, and standing at and by the podium, Henning Matthiesen and David Gregory, the conference coorganisers.

Experimental work in the marine or fresh water environment is challenging and this was evident in papers discussing the impact of erosion and protection of sites in Lake Constance and Zurich, a poster presentation on the problems of protec tion on the Gulf coast of Iran, and a major study of the effects of reburial of metal objects under seawater as a means of ensuring the survival of many thousands of artefacts recovered from shipwrecks at the island of Marstrand, Sweden. The bioerosion of stone underwater is also an is sue and we were shown how rapidly it can be de graded by biological growth eroding the surface and creating cavities to the extent that surface detail is lost. Evaluating the changes to burial conditions by reference to the stratigraphic layers of corrosion has been something that one of the reviewers (MC) has long sought to see tested, so a paper on this examining corrosion of ferrous artefacts from
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an ironworking site in Normandy, France was very welcome despite the risk of rapid change of cor rosion species following excavation. Unsaturated soils are notoriously varied and characterising potential preservation without excavation is often speculative so a paper reporting work to develop methodologies for evaluating unsaturated soils in Oslo was very welcome. On a broader scale we heard a paper on the carbon release arising from desiccation of wetlands and the risk that archaeological excavations in wet lands might be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of building over archae ological sites was discussed and moves towards the development of a risk assessment system for archaeological sites were highlighted. Finally the question was asked whether preservation can be predicted from monitoring results, the question we would all like to see the answer to.

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Overall, the papers in this first theme were excep tionally broad in their subject matter and scope, from small scale laboratory work to the large scale analysis of an entire urban area. All provided dif ferent methods of quantifying degradation rates at these different scales, demonstrating that we have now, collectively, developed a range of tools suitable for assessing the state of preservation of most common material. What is less clear, for the most part, and was not tackled in many of the papers in this session, are the rates at which de gradation processes are taking place. Theme 2, Monitoring and mitigation case studies comprised seventeen papers and again we were offered a rich mix of papers covering marine and coastal sites, wetlands and unsaturated sites, broad scale urban evaluation, and, breaking new ground (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor for this conference), studies of the preservation of sites in the Greenland permafrost and at the other extreme, in Abu Dhabi, and in addition to our usual span of materials, mudbrick in China. It is impossible to cover the details of each of the papers, but suffice to say that there appeared to be the recognition that monitoring had to answer questions, and that only in exceptional circum stances could monitoring be justified over very long timescales. A report of the important work at Bryggen, Bergen, Norway demonstrated how postconstruction monitoring of the impact of the uncontrolled construction of a hotel at the World Heritage Site of the medieval waterfront of Bergen enabled the implementation of post development mitigation of the damages caused to organic structural remains. Two papers (one from session 4) showed how monitoring could be used to devise strategies that would enable historic towns such as Trondheim, Norway and Nantwich, England to continue to
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evolve to meet the needs of modern life. Interest ingly, on many of the terrestrial sites presented under this theme, monitoring was aimed at un derstanding unsaturated, rather than fully water logged deposits. Techniques ranged from the use of TDR, in situ redox and oxygen probes, to soil and water analysis. Although there was no one common approach used, the detailed analysis of soil and water chemistry (anion and cation con centrations for example), before and throughout monitoring seems to be one of the more reliable ways of characterising these very challenging burial environments. Taking to the water again, we were shown the sad destruction of the Stirling Castle, one of Englands finest seventeenth century shipwrecks as it be came increasingly exposed by the movement of the great sandbank that had hitherto protected it. It was a graphic example of the challenges in volved in trying to protect entire ships and their contents in the dynamic marine environment. One of the other elements of the maritime envir onment is wood borers and we were provided with summary of work in the Baltic Sea, which is increasing in salinity through the impact of cli mate change as part of the EU project WreckPro tect to develop protection strategies against marine borers for underwater cultural heritage. On the opposite side of the globe experimental work to evaluate the options for protecting a 19th century wooden hulled ship south of Free mantle, Western Australia were described. In an other departure for PARIS we were shown how efforts were being made to conserve the extens ive submerged upstanding remains of Roman vil las at Baia, Naples, Italy, and to make them accessible to scuba divers. Theme 3, Protocols standards and legislation at tracted fewer papers with eight contributors. There was a tendency in this session to drift rather
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Per Kristian Madsen, Director of the National Museum of Denmark welcoming the delegates and opening the Symposium.

Conference breaks provided ample opportunity to share experiences and exchange ideas.

too far into straightforward cultural resource management and this would be a danger for the PARIS brand which has always tried to focus on the importance of a sound scientific understand ing to underpin the management of archaeolo gical heritage. Nonetheless, the session did bring in some new faces who will hopefully have bene fited from the wider programme and who we hope will return with examples of scientific studies of the problems inherent in trying to preserve still buried archaeological sites. Some of the papers in this session reported on efforts to establish sound management princi pals to underpin their archaeological heritage. The first paper described how the Norwegian Dir ectorate for Cultural Heritage was using the work it had funded at Bergen to develop a toolbox that would enable it to apply the same standards so that the right decisions can be made in future cases, whilst another outlined the development of a new governmental body to oversee the ar chaeological heritage of the Flanders region of Belgium. One paper was concerned with the po tential for soils to be used as indicators of the preservation potential of sites, using both the soil itself and its inclusions of, for example, calcareous shells to indicate the pH of the soil. The paper
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argued for more prior assessment of the soils themselves to influence the design of monitor ing schemes, and perhaps this paper would have been better placed with the previous theme on monitoring. Two projects were concerned with the conserva tion of exposed sites, one a Roman settlement at Ludbreg in Croatia, and the other a mosaic floor in Turkey. A more seriously misplaced contribution concerned the need for more coherent strategies to ensure the proper curation and storage of the many thousands of dendrochronological cores. Interesting as these papers were, they were not really in the spirit of the PARIS conferences and would have perhaps have generated wider interest at other venues. Theme 4, Preserving archaeological remains in situ can we document it works? was perhaps the most challenging of all the sessions. It was pointed out that one of the first attempts to scientifically monitor an archaeological site was only twenty one years ago, and this site, the Rose Theatre in London, has been continuously monitored since then. This timescale is short by comparison with the lifetime of most structures built over archae ological remains and it is often hard to tell what
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changes might take place before they can be re examined. We were given a tour through sites in London that had been first excavated up to 150 years previously, and when reexcavated in recent times were shown to be still in good condition. However many of these were stone structures or timber revetments close to the River Thames where wood preservation has been shown to be excellent. The Rose Theatre itself is due to be reexcavated and there will be much interest in how effective the reburial system has been, particularly as it has become the benchmark for reburial at many other sites. This was discussed in a paper which also presented the preferred method for sealing the site entirely so that the natural hydrology alone maintains the sites integrity. Equally in teresting was the research into the impact of a change in soil moisture content (SMC) that was presented. It was suggested that a reduction in SMC from 50% to 40% would to be likely to lead to a 13% shrinkage in the important deposits of the Rose Theatre. This is noteworthy as although other projects have collected moisture data in the past, few if any have used the data to any great effect. The continuing information from the research at Nydam Mse in Denmark was presented, and on a shorter timescale, there were more results from the reburial research at Marstrand (the RAAR pro ject also discussed in session 1). The history of monitoring peat extraction in Englands Somer set Levels coupled with the peat wastage result ing from land drainage was given together with the hope that nature and archaeological conser vation together with an aging farming community may enable practical steps to be taken to begin the long process of regenerating the peat, perhaps driven also by the beneficial effect this would have on carbon capture. Farming and drainage were also critical elements in the management of the land
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scape around the former island of Schokland. Re sults of the monitoring that has been taking place for 15 years since 1999 were presented and the efficacy of the various tools used was discussed. Finally, the evolution of monitoring over 30 years in England was presented and an assessment of the types of sites monitored, reasons from moni toring and tools used was given. Recommenda tions to help improve future monitoring projects were presented. These included the need for more assessment of the state of preservation of a site before monitoring is considered; the need for a proper project design to be developed at the out set of the work; and finally that there should be clarity about why monitoring is needed for a given site and what can be done when monitoring data suggest optimum conditions for survival are no longer being maintained. The conference finished with a round table discus sion of the four themes lead by the session chairs. It is hoped that a summary of the main discussion points raised by the panel and audience will be collated for the conference proceedings (from audio recordings). Some of the points discussed included the extent to which we can quantify de gradation states and rates (states, yes, rates, in some cases); the need for more groundtruthing of model and microcosm research to take place on actual archaeological sites; the need for more thought to go into designing monitoring schemes, and for more assessment prior to monitoring; and finally, a recognition that standards and protocols can be useful in providing guidance to those working in the discipline, but often need to be reproduced separately for each country due to different legislation and burial environments. Just before the discussion started, the session was interrupted in order for a presentation to be made to David Gregory and Henning Matthiesen,
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MIKE CORFIELD Conservator Contact: mike1corfield@btinternet.com Mike Corfield has been a conservator and conser vation manager in Wiltshire, Wales and with Eng lish Heritage. In 1991 he became responsible for the hydrological monitoring programme at the site of the Rose Theatre. Later, he carried out projects to study the hydrology of sites to increase understanding of hydrology and the preservation of organic remains. With their support and like minded colleagues the first Preservation of Ar chaeological Remains in Situ conference was held in 1996, and in 1998 recognising that archaeolo gical resource managers recommending mitiga tion strategies needed to be supported by sound scientific advice and accordingly a team of nine regional scientific advisers were appointed. Mike was appointed English Heritage Chief Scientist in 1999, and since his retirement in 2002 he has re tained his interest in site preservation as a con sultant, carrying out projects for UNESCO in India and Iran, and supporting academic research. JIM WILLIAMS Archaeological scientist Contact: jim.williams@englishheritage.org.uk Jim Williams is an archaeological scientist, inter ested in preservation in situ issues, specifically groundwater monitoring and construction impacts. Jim is a coauthor of the English Heritage docu ment Piling and Archaeology, and has contributed papers on preservation in situ to a number of European conferences, and been involved with an EC project on pile reuse (RUFUS). During 2009 Jim took a secondment to coordinate the devel opment of a UKwide National Heritage Science Strategy. He is currently the English Heritage Science Advisor for the East Midlands, a role that he has undertaken on and off for the last 9 years.
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Excursion to Roskilde in Viking ships.

the conference chairs. They were presented with an award from the Sofie Elizabeth and Aage Rothen bergs Scholarship in recognition of their research in natural science at the National Museum. We should also mention the other members of the organising committee, Karen Brynjolf Pedersen and Mads Chr. Christensen, who along with Hen ning and David organised an extremely successful and well run conference. On the social side, there was an opening reception in the entrance of the National Museum (the ven ue for the conference) on the evening before the conference began, a visit to ongoing excavations in the city centre or a trip to see the ruins under Christiansborg on the first evening, and the con ference dinner in the Tivoli Gardens at the end of the second day. The day after the conference itself was over there was an excursion to Roskilde that included a fleet of Viking ships filled with deleg ates sailing in the bay, and a conducted tour of the cathedral, and finally, on the fifth (or sixth) day (depending when you had arrived), an infor mal, guided tour of the National Museums con servation department at Mlledalen near Brede. The conference proceedings will be published in a special issue of Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites in late 2011 or early 2012.
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