The PÉRCÉA Bois project, carried out between 2018 and 2020, was initiated in order to document, analyse, restore, archive and publish the important collection of archaeological wooden artefacts currently stored in the basement of the French Institute in Cairo. Thanks to the Institute’s commitment towards preserving and enhancing its collections, this group of nearly 250 objects, left largely untouched since the beginning of the 20th century, has now been examined and recorded, facilitating access to the objects and improving our knowledge of them.
The over-arching aim of PÉRCÉA Bois project was to document, analyse, conserve and publish the important ancient wood collection that has been stored in the basement of the IFAO in Cairo since the beginning of the 20th century. In accordance with the IFAO’s commitment towards preserving and enhancing its collections, an initial inventory and examination of this long-dormant collection was carried out by Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer, revealing its importance and strong research potential. As a result, the PÉRCÉA Bois project was developed, adopting a multidisciplinary approach that would help uncover the history and significance of the objects as well as contribute towards the research objectives identified by the IFAO. Gersande Eschenbrenner Diemer, Anna Giulia de Marco and Lisa Sartini were in charge of the project, which was also supported by the University of Pisa and the Museo Egizio, Turin.
The main objectives of the PÉRCÉA Bois project were:
– to catalogue and document the collection;
– starting to ensure the restoration and conservation of the collection;
To meet these objectives, the project took each object as the “source of research” and, with the help of various project partners, initiated an interdisciplinary methodology combining archaeology, archaeometry, Egyptology and conservation in an effort to better understand the history of the objects through an assessment of methods of manufacture, use and possible reuse. The archaeometric research included analysis of the wood, pigments and 14C analysis. In addition, as part of an exchange of skills between the different partners of the project, conservators based at UCL London offered two training sessions to the conservators at the Institute in Cairo with the aim of sharing internationally recognised conservation standards for the conservation of archaeological objects.
At the end of the second year of the project, the collection had only been partially conserved and studied, and therefore it was integrated into the framework of the ÉBÉNES research programme. With the PÉRCÉA Bois and subsequent ÉBÉNES projects, it will be possible to complete this work, and to make the project archive and resulting outcomes more widely accessible through an online publication which will complement the existing databases of the IFAO.
As well as making this information available for the general public interested in the material culture of ancient Egypt, this virtual site will allow the scientific community to gain access to this valuable collection, hopefully enabling new collaborations, as encouraged by the Institute. In addition, the wood collection from the site of Deir el-Medina will be the subject of a special publication with contributions by the members of the Medjehu Project, further helping to disseminate the research. The publication of the different typologies of wooden objects in the form of catalogues as well as a monograph devoted to the craft of wood and its influence in Egyptian society will be carried out during the ÉBÉNES research programme
Collaborations and sponsors:
University College of London, Institute of Archaeology, London.
Università di Pisa, Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, Pisa.
Museo Egizio of Turin, Turin.
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer (UCL): Egyptologist, Associate researcher, HiSoMA Laboratory, UMR 5189, European Grant Marie Curie (UCL, London, November 2016-November 2018), London.
Victoria Asensi Amoros (Xylodata): Egyptologist, Wood Specialist, Director of Xylodata SARL, Paris.
Jan Dariusz Cutajar (UCL): Conservator.
Claire d’Izarny-Gargas, MATHAF, Qatar: Curator-restorer.
Hélène Guichard (Musée du Louvre): Egyptologist, Curator in charge of Egyptian collections.
Cédric Larcher (Ifao): Egyptologist, in charge of the Archives and Collections Department.
Anita Quiles (Ifao): Head of the Archaeometry Unit.
Stephen Quirke (UCL): Egyptologist, Edward Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology.
Dean Sully (UCL): Lecturer in Conservation.
Anna Giulia De Marco: Egyptologist, Università di Pisa /Museo Egizio.
Lisa Sartini: Egyptologist, Università di Pisa.
Paolo Marini: Egyptologist, Curator Museo Egizio of Turin.