Conservation news near and far

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Hereclea Minoa Sicilia theater covered

Theater ruins at the ancient Greek city of Heraclea Minoa, on Sicily’s southwest coast (here on Google Maps). The Greek settlement was probably founded about 550 BC, and abandoned about five centuries later. The audience looked south across the stage and a residential zone to the Mediterranean. Hellenic theater events were held in the morning.

One of the goals of the Society for Georgia Archaeology is to promote conservation of archaeological resources. And “archaeological resources” are many different things, ranging from an abandoned village or house (even if that house was built in 1970) to refuse in a pit, and more. This week, two heartwarming stories about conservation of archaeological resources have been in the news.

Close to home, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the 2011 Partners in Conservation Awards, which went to seventeen organizations, including Georgia’s own the Camp Lawton Preservation Team. Secretary Salazar made the award in Washington, DC on 21 September 2011.

The award ceremony program notes:

One hundred fifty years after the start of the Civil War, a new chapter of Civil War history is being written, thanks to Camp Lawton Partnership Team. The Project began as a collaborative effort between Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Southern University’s (GSU) Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and later US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in an attempt to determine the exact location of the Camp Lawton stockade at Magnolia Springs State Park.

The project team works closely with area schools, and regularly speaks to organizations focused on history, education and tourism, as well as at conferences throughout the region. Through their efforts, thousands of people have learned more about their history as citizens of the United States and the value of the cultural resources currently managed by USFWS and Georgia DNR.

The named honorees include SGA Past President Sue Moore, current SGA Board Member Matthew Newberry, and State Archaeologist David Crass.

Read all stories on this website about Camp Lawton by clicking here.

The other story is from the other side of the world, from the Biblical lands. In a joint effort by The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Google, high-resolution digital images of five Dead Sea Scrolls are now online for your perusal.

Notes the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project website:

All five scrolls can be magnified so that users may examine texts in exacting detail. Details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through ultra-high resolution digital photography by photographer Ardon Bar-Hama– at 1,200 mega pixels each, these images are almost two hundred times higher in resolution than those produced by a standard camera. Each picture utilized UV-protected flash tubes with an exposure of 1/4000th of a second to minimize damage to the fragile manuscripts.

Obviously, unrolling the scrolls and piecing them together was a huge conservation undertaking. And, the Project notes, simply photographing them required thoughtful conservation procedures.

Visit the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project online here, and scrutinize the detail yourself.

Archaeological conservation begins with careful management of the resources wherever they are today—whether in the soil or in a museum. Sometimes, to conserve a resource in one way, you damage it another. Consider the picture that leads this story, of the theater at the Greek settlement of Heraclea Minoa, on Sicily. The ancient Greeks made the theater out of sandstone, which was handy to the city. However, sandstone is not durable, and the rain, in particular, constantly eroded the architectural remains. To save it from the rain, conservationists installed an umbrella, in effect. However, the act of installing the plexiglass roof damaged every place workers erected a support.

Many would say archaeological conservation is full of tradeoffs.