Materials Processing in the Conservation Lab and Magazzino

The processing and analysis of all material recovered from survey and excavation takes place in the laboratory. The lab at Poggio Colla has two locations: a ground floor area adjoining Guardia and a building located next to Selve. Artifacts are usually processed in consecutive stages, however the fragility or significance of the object will sometimes require one of the following stages to take precedence over the others: inventory, conservation, cataloguing and documentation and storage. Initial inventory, conservation and archaeological illustration usually take place at Guardia, while cataloguing, research, photography and storage take place at Selve.

Every morning the Director of Materials and laboratory assistants begin by taking an inventory of all the material brought down from the site the previous day. Typically, this material has either been designated as a find by the trench supervisor or grouped by its fabric (black glaze, bucchero, fine ware, coarse ware, impasto, etc.) into sherd bags. The sherd bags will be inventoried in the most basic of ways, where their contents are counted and recorded. Sherd Count Forms, Tile Count Forms, and Bag List, are the responsibility of the trench supervisors, however the cataloguer does document the acquisition of the material by the lab. Finds are inventoried in a more detailed manner. They are first recorded into the Find Index (which requires the following information: Trench Number, Date, Find Number, Description and Notebook Page). Next, they are visually inspected by the Director of Materials to determine which artifacts should be catalogued and which should remain non-catalogued objects; the conservator and other directors may aid in this process.

Once an artifact has been designated for catalogue status it is assigned a catalogue number. The catalogue number, which consists of the last two digits of the excavation year followed by a consecutive Arabic number, is then recorded on the Find Tag in red and in the Find Index (e.g. the first find of the 2002 season will be 02-001). It is then sent to conservation for treatment.

2007 Conservation and Illustration lab and staff:
Josiah Wagener, Allison Lewis, Wendy Walker, and Anne Hooton


Gretchen Meyers shows a bucchero vessel to visitors.

Conservation involves the cleaning, repair, consolidation, and preservation of material remains. The conservation lab follows two basic principles: to handle an object as carefully and as minimally as possible and to practice the principle of reversibility. The latter is especially important, for it insures that any treatment applied to an object is reversible at a later date with no resulting damage or change to the object.

The Conservation staff at Poggio Colla work with the materials of the excavation to facilitate the interpretation of the site and ensure the preservation of archaeological data and objects for future researchers. The staff consult with archaeologists choose appropriate techniques that best suit Poggio Colla's site and storage conditions and conform to the best ethical practices of conservation.

Finds are cleaned and consolidated by conservators in the lab

Treatments can include the mechanical cleaning, reassembly, and careful storage of finds. Objects are stored using stable materials and in conditions that mitigate future damage from handling and environment. Objects are treated to preserve their chemical and mechanical integrity by providing supportive storage mounts and maintaining environmental conditions in storage.

The volume of material that is found varies but often includes substantial amounts of ceramics. Conservators work with excavators and students to develop procedures and guidance on pottery washing. Our aim is to preserve as much information as possible from all archaeological material and requires the involvement of every excavation member.

For field reports on the conservation lab and magazzino, see Conservation.

After receiving proper conservation treatments, an artifact selected for cataloguing is returned to the Director of Materials. It is at this point that the object is entered into the excavation database where it will be described in detail. The cataloguer records the artifact's material, detailed measurements, and a precise description. The Poggio Colla catalogue provides more than descriptive information on an object; it also records the provenance of the artifact, references to the trench notebook, negative and drawing numbers, and information concerning storage. In addition, digital photographs supplement the entry. It is searchable in many fields and serves as a vital tool for all research on material culture from the site.

Robert Belanger cleans and drawing finds from his trench in the pottery
shed at Vigna, before they are moved to the magazzino for processing.


Gretchen Meyers catalogues finds and stores them in the magazzino.

Once the catalogue entry is complete, the object is documented by with both digital and black and white photography and technical illustrations. Objects are then prepared for storage. Storage preparation includes the marking of the catalogue number on the object in permanent ink, placing the artifact and find tag into an archival bag, and then assigning the object to an appropriate box. Boxes are grouped first by excavation year and then by material fabric. Storage completes the basic sequence of artifact processing.

During the excavation season, all catalogued objects, with the exception of items removed and stored elsewhere due to their high value, are stored in assigned boxes in the Selve lab space. An inventory of all catalogued objects is conducted at the start and completion of each season. Only lab personnel and excavation staff should handle and remove catalogued objects from their storage location. During the remainder of the year, catalogued objects are stored in a basement facility in the Museo Beato Angelico in Vicchio. This facility also holds all non-catalogued finds and bagged ceramics, metal, ecofacts, soil samples and tile, in boxes organized according to excavation year and trench designation.


2005 Illustrator Anne Hooten at work.

Illustrators draw catalogued and conserved objects in the magazzino. Profiles, reconstructions, and surface decorations are among the concerns of the illustrator. Drawings made to scale add to the kind of information recorded in photographs and to the information used by staff and other researchers to analyze the material culture of Poggio Colla.

2005 Illustrator Anne Hooten drawing the hearth in Trench PC 23.

Anne Hooten's illustration of a smoke hole tile



Catalogued finds are photographed in color as well as in black and white. These photographs are kept in the archives at SMU and are used for publications by the professional staff of the excavation. Finds are also photographed digitally for our CD-Rom image archives. Director Greg Warden and Stephanie Brown are our official object photographers.

Director Greg Warden shoots catalogued finds for publication.

Stephanie Brown shoots finds for database and publication


Excavation Houses: Vigna, Selve, and Guardia

Technology: computers and other technology

Operations: daily life of the Operations Manager and Housing Manager

The Environs: a photo journal of the Mugello Valley and its people.