Guest blogger: Heidi Rosenwinkel
Wednesday was a very exciting day in the domestic trenches! As Petra North Ridge Project’s small finds specialist and assistant conservator, I was called out from the lab to investigate a delicate in situ artifact found through careful and skilled excavation by Maggie Eno and Jonathan Parker. The fragile nature of the artifact did not lend itself to typical excavation methods, so in conferring with another experienced conservator, Carlos Santiago, we decided the best chance we had to safely remove the object was through a block lift.
Block lifts are typically simple procedures, wherein an artifact is removed still embedded in a block of the surrounding soil, but this situation proved to be a bit more difficult in the sands of Petra. I formed a team with Carlos Santiago and Daniel Lowery, and with the assistance of camp manager, John Rucker, we gathered plastic wrap, duct tape, a piece of cardboard, cotton gauze, tulle, plaster and a wooden frame. We excavated a perimeter around the object, and covered the area containing the artifact with plastic wrap. Working as a team, we began to undercut the block while tightly duct taping the sides to maintain its shape. As we went, we tucked the plastic wrap and duct tape beneath the block, and when it was fully undercut and loose from the bedrock below, we carefully slid the block on to a piece of cardboard.
In order to keep the object compacted in the loose sand, we soaked strips of cotton gauze in plaster and wrapped the block like a mummy on top of the cardboard. I put a piece of tulle and the wooden frame over the plastered block. We poured plaster into the frame and are now waiting for the plaster to set so that we can safely transport the object to a controlled lab setting for conservation and analysis. What a great result from such a collaborative effort! Another success for the Petra North Ridge team!