Last fall the second regional group of mosaic maintenance trainees returned to the Roman site of Makhtar, Tunisia, for the third part of their training course in the maintenance of in situ archaeological mosaics. The course is a collaboration between the GCI and the Tunisian Institut National du Patrimoine (INP) to train technicians on stabilization and routine maintenance of in situ archaeological floor mosaics. This campaign continued the technicians' supervised training in stabilization treatments using lime-based mortars, through work on the in situ floor mosaic in the cold room, or frigidarium, of the site's thermal baths.

conservation image

Due to the variety of colors in the mosaic, which imitates a marble-slab opus sectile pavement, it was necessary for the trainees to learn to create infill mortars that would be visually compatible with lacunae found in different parts of the mosaic. To accomplish this, the trainees procured different-colored fine gravel to mix with lime and sand, and they field-tested a number of mortars of various colors.

The mosaic has suffered loss near its surrounding walls. As a result, the trainees had the opportunity to carry out infilling repairs—not only to the interior of the work but also, on a larger scale, between the external edge of the mosaic and the surrounding walls. The execution of these repairs required the trainees to address the room's floor drainage as well.

During this campaign, the trainees received instruction in basic computer skills—keyboard use, writing, and filing. While their documentation training currently involves learning to record information in hard-copy format, it is hoped that in the future, written and photographic documentation can be conducted and stored digitally.

A fourth and final campaign for this group will be held in spring 2004 in Nabeul. After the completion of their training, the technicians will carry out maintenance of in situ mosaics at archaeological sites in the central region of Tunisia.

The training campaigns are part of a Tunisian national strategy to train a maintenance team for every region of the country. A third group of technicians—these from the coastal region of Sahel, where a number of important mosaic sites are located, including those at the city of El Jemm—will begin their training in fall 2004.