One of the main objectives of the project dedicated to woodcraft at the IFAO is to organize training for Egyptian conservators based at the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo. The focus for these sessions is the important collection of ancient wood stored in the Institute’s basement since the beginning of the 20th century. Left dormant for many years, this material was brought to light again thanks to the IFAO’s desire to preserve and enhance its collections. An inventory of the wood collection, initiated by Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer revealed its importance and strong research potential as well as highlighting the need to document, analyse, restore and publish it in accordance with internationally recognised conservation standards.
Within the framework of the PÉRCÉA Bois project (IFAO), an initial training course, led by Dean Sully and Jan Cutajar (UCL), was conducted in April 2018 with the staff of the Institute’s conservation laboratory and archives. The aim was to set up a comprehensive scientific protocol that would facilitate both the work of the various departments involved in the restoration and conservation of the IFAO collection and the work of the researchers in charge of the publication of the furniture. This protocol, produced in Arabic, French and English, was developed as an Excel file that brings together in a single document all the data specific to the analysis, restoration and conservation of the objects in the collection. A second training session in 2019 focused on the conservation-restoration of archaeological wooden objects by the conservators of the Institute, encouraging skill transfer and knowledge building between specialists from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL and conservators and researchers based in Cairo.
These training sessions will be continued within the framework of the ÉBÉNES programme (Étude des Bois Égyptiens: Nature, Emplois, Sauvegarde) and will be open, through a call for applications, to conservators from Egyptian museums in Cairo as the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), the Egyptian Museum and the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The next training session initially planned for 2021 will be organised in 2022. As part of this, we plan to invite various conservation colleagues from different international institutions (University of Cairo, Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, University of Jaen, the British Museum, Archaeological Museum of Madrid…) who will share the methodologies and techniques they have devised for work in the field and in museums, in preparation of the publication of the protocol for the conservation of wood in Egypt and Sudan (Arabic-English-French).
As one of the invited contributing specialists, Medjehu team member Lisa Sartini taught a session titled “Black coffins with yellow decoration: an in-depth study” at the international Summer School, “Ancient Egyptian Coffins and Sarcophagi – Study, Conservation, Diagnostic and New Technologies”.
In keeping with the aims of the summer school, which was intended to give students both the practical knowledge and technical skills needed for the study of coffins and sarcophagi, Lisa Sartini gave an overview of her PhD research, including the methodologies she used and the main results of her comprehensive investigation. Topics covered included the construction and decoration of the coffins (the raw materials and techniques used to construct and decorate them, the quality of the assembly and of the pieces of wood, iconographic themes and funerary inscriptions) and also the distribution of black coffins not only within Egyptian society but also throughout the Egyptian territories.
To learn more about the Summer school “Ancient Egyptian Coffins and Sarcophagi – Study, Conservation, Diagnostic and New Technologies” see: