Last June, in conjunction with the GCI's Mosaics In Situ project, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus organized a meeting of international experts on the conservation of ancient mosaics. Held in Nicosia, Cyprus, the four-day meeting was attended by 23 professionals from 11 countries.

conservation photo

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together professionals with an interest in the conservation of ancient mosaics to discuss existing needs in the field, as well as current initiatives and opportunities for fostering research and establishing collaborative projects.

Structured around four major themes—inventory and documentation; characterization and causes of deterioration; maintenance, treatments, and protective interventions; and training and awareness—the meeting provided an opportunity for professionals and organizations involved in mosaics conservation to explore forging stronger relationships and working in a more integrated way.

At the meeting, participants drafted a statement for dissemination that included the following:

Mosaics represent one of the few polychromatic artistic achievements to survive from antiquity. There exists a consensus among professionals that they should be conserved in situ whenever possible; however, despite their apparent durability, mosaics are vulnerable to decay once exposed to the environment. Insufficient attention has been paid to the special conservation and long-term maintenance needs of excavated mosaics and as a consequence, mosaics are rapidly deteriorating and many are in danger of total loss.

To address these concerns, the meeting participants urge government authorities and others with responsibility for the protection and care of mosaics to consider the following actions:

  • Excavation of further mosaics should only be sanctioned in circumstances where their immediate and ongoing conservation can be assured.
  • Basic documentation of mosaics, including a condition and risk assessment, should be undertaken at a national level.
  • Maintenance should be given the highest priority, and consideration should be given to the reburial of mosaics that are not being actively maintained.
  • Training for those involved in the management or conservation of mosaics should be improved, and awareness of the importance and rapid loss of mosaics should be heightened among government authorities and the public.
  • Further research should be undertaken into the causes of deterioration and methods of conservation of mosaics.

The GCI's Mosaics In Situ project, which addresses a number of important issues related to the conservation and management of ancient mosaic pavements in situ, will base its future activities on these recommendations and will work collaboratively with other individuals and institutions to pursue these common goals.