Scientific Investigation 2008–2011

In 2008, the GCI entered into a collaboration with the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP) at the archaeological site of Herculaneum to carry out scientific investigations addressing a number of conservation issues at the site. Research included innovative methods to detect voids behind plasters and mosaics, injection grouts for the reattachment of plasters, mosaics and wall paintings, polynomial texture mapping of wall paintings, visual induced luminescence for the detection of Egyptian blue, analytical study of ancient glass, and the study of flaking paint on wall paintings.

In collaboration with HCP, the GCI carried out scientific investigations to address a number of conservation issues at the site. These scientific investigations provided an opportunity to better understand the conditions of the excavated archaeological material (including but not limited to structures, wall paintings and other decorative features, and archaeological material) and various conservation materials and methods used in the past.

The objective of this investigative process was to provide relevant information to those responsible for the conservation of the site to take optimal decisions and together create a body of knowledge to inform future conservation practice. The aims of the scientific research were to

Assist HCP in identifying deterioration phenomena and priorities for the conservation of the site

Support HCP by carrying out analytical and diagnostic investigations of these phenomena and undertaking technical examination and monitoring of deterioration

Support the development and assessment of specific conservation interventions, such as injection grouting for the stabilization of wall paintings, plasters, and mosaics

Use the latest advances in conservation science technologies for the study of injection grouts, archaeological glass, carbonized wood, and wall paintings

Provide opportunities for GCI and other scientists to test and employ noninvasive portable equipment on site and to improve methodologies for measurement and data interpretation, characterizing original and deterioration materials of wall paintings, detecting voids in plasters, identifying Egyptian blue pigment, and characterizing ancient Roman glass

This collaborative program of research activity and scientific investigation aimed at better understanding the archaeological site of Herculaneum to aid in its conservation, enhancement, and management as part of the Herculaneum Conservation Project.

This included the improved understanding of the conditions of the excavated archaeological material including buildings, wall paintings, pigments and their products of alteration, salts formation, ancient glass, and others. The goal of this analytical process was to provide relevant information to the site authorities in order for them to take optimal decisions for the conservation and management of the site.

The British School in Rome (responsible for relaying Packard Humanities Institute and the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei priorities) and the GCI jointly planned and carried out the investigation work and jointly developed conservation-related questions that needed resolution in order to better inform conservation decisions at the site and in the Vesuvian region. Additionally, this study provided the opportunity to better understand the archaeological material, the forms of decay and the conservation measures to be taken to serve as an example of the application of the protocol to be jointly developed in order to advance knowledge useful to best manage an archaeological site.