Research and Testing

The research and testing component of the project was aimed at achieving a better understanding of the causes of deterioration of in situ mosaics and developing methods and approaches for their maintenance, conservation, and presentation. This aspect of the project involved a number of elements.

Literature Review
A bibliographic search on conservation of mosaics was carried out, resulting in the development of a database of the relevant literature, in which references are key-worded to aid in searching. The following subject categories were established, reflecting the principal issues and interventions related to the research program:

  • mosaic inventories and corpora;
  • causes of deterioration;
  • treatments and maintenance;
  • sheltering:
  • reburial;
  • training and awareness.

For each category, reviews of the published literature were written with the aim of establishing the current state of knowledge and of identifying areas in need of further research. The literature reviews are put online as they are completed. An overview of results on deterioration and conservation treatments was presented at the 2005 ICCM conference in Tunisia.

Assessment of Shelters over Mosaics
An initiative to evaluate the performance of shelters over mosaics began in 2002 in partnership with English Heritage and the Israel Antiquities Authority. It incorporates two phases. Phase 1 is a rapid assessment (or broad brush survey) of existing shelters over mosaics in England and Israel. From the rapid assessment, we hope to achieve a grasp of the condition of mosaics protected by shelters; a basic correlation between mosaic condition and shelter construction; and a better understanding of how to best construct shelters to protect mosaics. A methodology for the rapid assessment has been developed and applied in England by English Heritage and by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Israel. Initial results were presented at the 2005 ICCM conference in Tunisia and the 2008 ICCM conference in Palermo, Italy. (See Related Materials). See Shelters for Archaeological Sites with Mosaics for MOSAIKON-related work in this area.

Evaluation of the Orpheus Mosaic Project in Paphos, Cyprus
The Orpheus project—one the Getty Conservation Institute's earliest field projects—was a joint undertaking by the GCI and the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, in 1988-1989. The project involved lifting the newly discovered Orpheus mosaic in Paphos using the technique of rolling and re-laying it in situ on Aerolam panels (see Related MaterialsThe Conservation of the Orpheus Mosaic at Paphos, Cyprus). As part of a larger GCI initiative to assess some of its past projects, it was decided in 2003 to evaluate the Orpheus project. The purpose of a project evaluation generally is to determine whether a project met its intended goals and has contributed to the advancement of the theory and practice of conservation (and if not, why not). The premise in undertaking evaluations is that both the GCI and partner institutions involved in the project and the profession can learn from the process.

In September 2004 an assessment of physical condition was carried out on the Orpheus mosaic (undertaken with the assistance of consultant conservator Giorgio Capriotti, who had done the condition assessment of the mosaic in 1988) and on the mosaic’s protective shelter (the "hexashelter" was constructed as a temporary protection but has remained in place). The purpose of the assessment was to determine how successful the rolling technique and the shelter were in protecting and preserving both the material of the mosaic and its values, and to make recommendations for the future preservation of the mosaic. Condition recording documentation included high-resolution digital photography (undertaken by consultant photographer Vassos Stylianou) using a medium format Hasselblad camera. The assessment was carried out in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities and the Archaeological Research Institute of the University of Cyprus. The results of the assessment were presented at the 2005 ICCM conference in Tunisia. (See Related Materials).

Documentation and Characterization of Mosaics
The purpose of this part of the project was to develop basic methodologies and protocols for activities critical to any future research, testing, or on site interventions. These principally include condition recording and materials characterization of mosaics. Once developed, they will be available for other practitioners to adopt or adapt.

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Condition Recording: Assessment of condition focused on the development of a methodology for the graphic documentation of mosaics in situ. The protocol for condition recording was implemented at two sites, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The recording of the Khirbet Minya/Horvat Minnim mosaic (see Component Two) followed a more traditional approach, integrating manual and electronic techniques, while the recording of one of the floor mosaics at the Byzantine monastery of Kyria Maria at the site of Beth Shean, was done directly in digital form. Electronic recording was carried out using AutoCAD, according to methods used for all GCI documentation. (See Related Materials).

Technical Glossary for Graphic Documentation: A glossary of conservation terms was developed to establish a common vocabulary for describing and recording conditions of and treatments to a mosaic. Each condition term in the glossary is described in written and visual form using photographs and/or drawings. The written definitions have been adopted or adapted as necessary from existing glossaries for mortar, stone, wall paintings, and mosaics. The terms have been divided in two major categories: current condition and current treatments. The glossary, tested in the field for applicability to a wide range of sites and conditions, is available online. (See Related Materials).

Comparative Exposure Testing In Situ
This testing is the result of an assessment of current practices in mosaic conservation carried out at the outset of the project, which identified maintenance as the key element in the long-term survival of mosaics. The program, undertaken at the site of Caesarea, Israel, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation of the Israel Antiquities Authority, aimed to evaluate, document, and quantify the role of maintenance in the preservation of mosaics.

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A group of four test mosaics with a similar conservation history—but subject to different interventions (exposure, sheltering, shallow covering, and reburial) and different levels of maintenance—were regularly monitored over a three-year period (1999–2002). The testing program has demonstrated the role maintenance plays in the preservation of the mosaics and the resources required for maintenance in terms of types of interventions, personnel, time, and frequency. The methodology of the testing has been published (see Related Materials) and results are being prepared for publication.

Page updated: November 2009

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