February’s news from the Conservation Lab: Analyzing rocks from Notion

(Apologies to our readers for getting this post up late.)

BY CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator

This semester, the Kelsey Conservation Lab is taking an analytical look at rock samples from the archaeological site of Notion. Suzanne Davis and Peter Knoop documented and collected the samples from the site during the 2017 field season. They represent the types of stone that were used to build the ancient Greek city’s numerous structures, an example of which is the Heroon — or shrine — shown below. As one might expect of structures that are over two thousand years old, Notion’s building stones are fragile and in need of conservation. Analyzing the rocks will help us figure out what has caused the stones to deteriorate and what we can do to slow this process.

Image_01 Feb 2018
Left: The Heroon at Notion; Right: Peter Knoop, Noel Grant, and Carrie Roberts examine Notion rock samples in the Kelsey Conservation Lab.

We are working with the Earth and Environmental Science Department’s EMAL lab to study the rocks, and we’ve had some additional help from UROP student Noel Grant. Noel is assisting us with bibliographic research, sample preparation, and instrumental analysis. We are using a variety of techniques to study the rocks’ physical and chemical characteristics, including microscopy, x-ray diffraction (XRD), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). During each round of analysis we look for clues as to the type of rock we’re looking at and whether there are materials like salts and clays present in the sample. This information will help us develop a conservation and site preservation plan for Notion, and determine the best approaches for protecting the site’s ancient structures.

Image_02 Feb 2018
Left: Carrie examines a rock sample using an SEM microscope; Right: SEM image of a schist rock sample

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