July’s News from the Conservation Lab

by Suzanne Davis, Curator of Conservation

I recently returned from a few weeks of work at one of the Kelsey Museum’s excavations — the site of Notion in Turkey. Notion is a beautiful, rugged, and windswept site on promontory jutting into the Aegean Sea, and it’s interesting from a research perspective because it preserves an entire city, albeit at ground level.

Temple of Apollo at Notion
Altar of the Temple of Athena at Notion, with view of the Aegean Sea.

For the past three years, I’ve been working with Notion team to assess the site’s condition and the ongoing risks to its long-term preservation in order to develop a sustainable plan for its conservation. Conservation planning at Notion is interesting and challenging for many reasons. One is that the city is built from a few stone types that have inherent problems (translation: the stone is falling apart). Another is that Notion is poised to develop — and be conserved — in a way that’s uncommon for an archaeological site. Because the site has remained almost untouched, it preserves a large stretch of pristine coastline and is home to quintessential Mediterranean ecosystems. Unlike many archaeological tourism destinations in Turkey, Notion provides an opportunity for something closer to ecotourism, a type of sustainable tourism designed to benefit local communities at the same time that it encourages conservation and enjoyment of the natural environment. This poses a special conservation challenge: How can the site be preserved in ways that are unobtrusive and retain the value of its natural as well as archaeological features?

To give you a view into some of the difficult decision-making around this, here is one small example, focused on oregano. Yes, this star of summer cookery plays a major role at Notion! Notion’s wild oregano is incredibly powerful; it makes the site smell amazing, it’s attractive, and people come from all around the region to harvest it. But … it’s also a pesky condition risk to our falling-apart stone. It grows particularly well inside the blocks of the Temple of Athena. Not around them. In them. The oregano is literally breaking them apart.

The Temple of Athena at Notion.
Wild oregano bursting forth from the blocks of the Temple of Athena.

So the question becomes, which is more important? The temple? The oregano? Thankfully it grows in other places on the site, too, so if we decide to remove it at the temple, we won’t doom this herb to destruction (but I secretly think the oregano from the Temple of Athena is the best on the site). At the moment, the Notion team is still in the planning phase for excavation and conservation, so we’re not yet ripping this herb out wholesale. We do, however, occasionally harvest small amounts for our own use, and I will leave you with one recipe for it — a cocktail created by the conservation and site management team at Notion. Enjoy!

The Notionikos


  • 1 sprig fresh oregano* (additional sprig for garnish, optional)
  • 3 slices small cucumber, peeled (additional slice for garnish, optional)
  • 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 oz gin
  • ice
  • tonic water


  1. In a rocks (old fashioned) glass, muddle the oregano and cucumber slices with the lemon juice.
  2. Add the gin and fill the glass 2/3 full with ice.
  3. Add the tonic and stir gently.
  4. Garnish with the additional oregano sprig and cucumber slice, if desired.
*The oregano from Notion is STRONG – feel free to use more sprigs if you’re not getting enough of an herb-forward effect.

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

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


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