JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 31 to 48)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 31 to 48)

ALFRED LUCAS: EGYPT'S SHERLOCK HOLMES

MARK GILBERG



1 INTRODUCTION

In recent years, practicing conservators have expressed considerable interest in the history of conservation. As the discipline of materials conservation matures, it is natural that conservators seek to understand the origins of their profession. Unfortunately, only a few writers have published on this subject, particularly in the area of archaeology (Caldararo 1987; Gilberg 1987; Seeley 1987; Johnson 1993).

To date, most of what we know about early developments in archaeological conservation may be derived from the published works of only a handful of individuals. These authors include Albert Voss, curator at the Museum of Mankind in Berlin (Gummel 1938); Friedrich Rathgen, director of the Chemical Laboratory of the Royal Museums of Berlin (Otto 1979); O. A. Rhousopoulos, chemist at the National Museum in Athens (Bobolines and Bobolines 1958–62); Gustav Rosenberg, conservator at the National Museum in Denmark (Thomsen 1940); Alexander Scott, director of the first chemical laboratory at the British Museum (Robertson 1947); H. J. Plenderleith, assistant keeper at the British Museum Laboratory (Plenderleith 1934); Flinders Petrie, British Egyptologist (Drower 1985); and Alfred Lucas, chemist at the Cairo Museum. Their works laid the groundwork for many of the most important developments in the field of archaeological conservation and had a profound impact upon the establishment of materials conservation as a profession.

Of the above, Alfred Lucas was the quintessential conservation scientist. An analytical chemist by training with a strong background in forensic science, Lucas was ideally suited to elucidate the technical achievements of the ancient Egyptians. Though probably best known for his work Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries(Lucas and Harris 1989), Lucas published numerous articles and books relevant to the care and preservation of archaeological materials. Most of his contributions to the field took place after his retirement at 55 (see appendix).

The following biography emphasizes some of Lucas's most important scientific achievements and their impact upon the development of archaeological conservation as a profession.


Copyright 1997 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works