March 2014 - Stefania Ermidoro
In Tell Mozan, the awareness of the importance of conservation issues has been present in the archaeologists working on the site since the beginning of the project. The idea that drives their work is that conservation must be concurrent with the archaeological process: curators and archaeologists must help each other for the best interest of the structures and the items emerging from the ground.
In planning the intervention, beside the primary necessity of protecting the structures from the atmospheric agents, two main principles have been followed on the site, and in J2 as well: improvement of the construction and minimal intervention, for the purpose of a reduced invasiveness and a high reversibility.
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The main building element excavated in J2 and in the other units related to the Terrace area (J1, J3 and J4) is stone: it is present both as vertical (revetment wall ^wall1, western and eastern flanking walls ^wall2 and ^wall3, curtain walls ctwl1 and
twl2) and horizontal (staircases ^stair1 and ^stair2, aprons ^apr1 and ^apr2) surfaces, and this has led to different conservative solutions.
The lithic material that builds the walls is vulnerable particularly in the mud joints: they are mostly damaged by animals, in particular foxes and birds that dig their burrows between the stones. The most effective solution found against this occurrence is the positioning of a net suspended along their faces, held on top by "sausages" (long sleeves made of tent material, filled with the dirt coming from the excavation). These nets need to adhere well to the wall faces and to be closed also laterally, otherwise birds can still get in and make their holes; if put in place properly, however, this solution is the most effective, preventing birds from perching on the stones. Moreover, it has the advantage of being non-intrusive since it can be seen only at close range. Foxes however can cut the nets quite easily, and dig their lairs between stones. Against them, the only solution is to intervene immediately as soon as the guardian identifies their intrusions.
The top of the walls, and in particular of the revetment wall (^wall1) are treated with pieces of tarp covered by a mud plaster coating; to avoid the formation of puddles at the top of the structures (which may produce dangerous infiltrations).
As for the horizontal surfaces (staircases and aprons), they have been left exposed. However, atmospheric agents as well as the continuing anthropic intervention in the excavation area could cause in some points the erosion of the mortar between limestones. For this reason, it has been adopted a solution that involves the use of wahal (a mixture of mud, straw and water) to consolidate the structures and to avoid displacement of the stones as a result of their loss. In case of larger spaces between different stones, tent shreds have been placed, and then the wahal upon them: in this way, the lithic material is consolidated and kept together.
Against vegetation, no herbicide is in use: whenever it is needed, in particular during spring and fall, workmen remove manually the plants that grow on the staircases and the aprons, before their roots become too deep and invasive.
Two other conservation techniques are in use in J2: adherent covers and backfill.
The first are used for the top of the revetment wall west of the staircase, and for the eastern flanking wall f129. These are particularly significant and endangered structures: in both cases, the easiest and least intrusive solution was preferred, with a tarp laid upon them. This avoids water infiltration and prevents stone detachment, allowing at the same time a constant monitoring of the structures underneath, since tarps can be removed easily as needed.
Backfilling was used in two cases: in the area in front of the apron and of the steps of the earliest staircase (which represent the oldest phases attested in this unit and are therefore protected, waiting for future excavation seasons) and for the pawprint and the three human footprints impressed in f381.
A system of metals bars set perpendicularly to the walls was also devised in 2006, with the purpose of measuring eventual movements of the stones, modifications of their placement or possible degradation of the more important lithic structure. These were placed in J2 at the top of the revetment wall and of the wall between J2 and J4. Measurements are not taken any more, but the metal structure is maintained in order to delimitate the archaeological area.
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