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Conservation of the Windover (8Br246) Textiles

  • Bruce Humphrey (a1), J.S. Gardner (a2), R.L. Andrews (a3), J.M. Adovasio (a3) and D.E. Strong (a3)...

Abstract

The excavations at the Windover Bog site (8BR246) in 1986 and 1987 yielded 87 specimens of technologically sophisticated textiles and other perishables from 37 human burials. The assemblage currently represents the oldest known textiles from this hemisphere. Unfortunately, microscopic examination has demonstrated that substantial cellular degradation has occurred in these artifacts. In fact, these items are but the dimmest reflections or more accurately skeletons of their former predepositional states. Although traditional consolidants ensured a minimum of warpage and shrinkage with subsequent freeze drying, they produced an undesirable surficial film. Additionally, the resultant products were extremely brittle and required further treatment. To this end, several leading authorities suggested the testing of Parylene gas phase polymer technology on the Windover specimens. The senior author introduced Parylene gas phase technology to the conservation field in 1984. Since that time, numerous evaluation programs have been undertaken at major institutions. Important artifacts as well as extremely ancient natural history materials have been successfully treated utilizing Parylene technology [1]. This paper specifically addresses the application of Parylene gas phase polymer technology to the consolidation and preservation of the unique textile materials recovered from the Windover site. Major areas of discussion are: historical background, early conservation efforts, evaluation and decision to use Parylene technology, properties of the Parylene family of polymers, the method of deposition and treatment, and final conclusions on the consolidation of the treated textiles.

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1. Grattan, David W., Can. Chem. News 41 (9), 2526 (1989).
2. Andrews, R.L., Adovasio, J.M., and Harding, D.G., presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Phoenix, AZ, 1988 (unpublished).
3. Doran, Glen H. and Dickle, David N., in Wet Site Archaeology, edited by Purdy, Barbara A. (The Telford Press Inc., Caldwell, NJ, 1988), p. 266.
4. Morris, Kenneth and Seifert, Betty L., J. Am. Inst. Cons. 18, 3343 (1978).
5. Humphrey, Bruce J., Stud. Cons. 29 (2), 117123 (1984).
6. Humphrey, Bruce J., J. Am. Ass. Cons. Hist. Art. Wks. 25 (2), 1529 (1986).
7. Grattan, David W., The Conservation of Specimens from the Geodetic Hills Fossil Forest Site (Spec. Pub. Geo. Sur. Can., Ottawa, Ontario, in press).
8. Hansen, Eric F. and Ginell, William S., in Historic Textile and Paper Materials II, Conservation and Characterization, edited by Zeronian, S. Haig and Needles, Howard L. (Am. Chem. Soc. Symp. Ser. 410, Los Angeles, CA 1988) pp. 108133.

Conservation of the Windover (8Br246) Textiles

  • Bruce Humphrey (a1), J.S. Gardner (a2), R.L. Andrews (a3), J.M. Adovasio (a3) and D.E. Strong (a3)...

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