Brooklyn Museum wrote:
Many objects within the Brooklyn Museum collection were found on...
Many objects within the Brooklyn Museum collection were found on excavations including this beautiful Ancient Egyptian cartonnage dating to the 1st century B.C.E. The object arrived in the conservation lab for treatment for an upcoming exhibition in our Ancient Egyptian galleries. After close visual examination, something unusual was discovered in one area of the red pigment: a perfectly printed letter 'm' under some white fibers stuck to the top of the pigment. As this was clearly not original to the object, the fibers and printed 'm' offer evidence of what happened to this object after it was excavated.
The red pigment, unlike the other colors, is shiny and unstable suggesting it was previously treated with an adhesive that is causing further damage. The attached fibers and printed 'm' would only transfer to the surface of the red pigment if it were wet or sticky suggesting the source of the letter 'm' was placed on top of the object while the adhesive was still wet.
Close visual examination as well as knowledge of the materials in which objects were packed on excavation suggested the fibers were from paper. After consultation with the paper conservators, the white fibers were tested for lignin, an organic polymer that helps form the structure of cell walls in wood and barks. This polymer reduces the strength of paper and is removed from high quality papers, but only minimally from low value paper items such as newspaper. The fibers tested positive indicating the object was likely consolidated with an adhesive and packed to be shipped from Egypt in contact with newsprint while the consolidant was still wet thereby allowing the transfer of the black printed 'm' and white fibers to the approximately 2,000 year old red pigment.
As the museum has no record of any previous restoration, the white fibers and letter 'm' are some of the only remaining evidence we have of this object's more recent history. The object has been treated and will be on display in the fall.
Posted by Kate Fugett