ALVAR AND BUTVAR: THE USE OF POLYVINYL ACETAL RESINS FOR THE TREATMENT OF THE WOODEN ARTIFACTS FROM GORDION, TURKEY
KRYSIA E. SPIRYDOWICZ, ELIZABETH SIMPSON, ROBERT A. BLANCHETTE, ARNO P. SCHNIEWIND, MAURAY K. TOUTLOFF, & ALISON MURRAY
Between 1950 and 1973, the archaeological site of Gordion in central Turkey was excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology under the direction of archaeologist Rodney S. Young. Gordion was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Phrygia, ruled at the height of its power in the 8th century B.C. by the great King Midas. Three of the richest tombs from the Gordion necropolis—Tumulus MM, Tumulus P, and Tumulus W—date to this period. Tumulus MM, the largest tomb at Gordion, is thought to be the tomb of Midas himself (fig. 1).
The three burials contained many exceptional works of art, including wooden household objects and a collection of fine wooden furniture. More than 37 pieces of furniture and more than 50 small wooden objects were excavated from these burials, now recognized as the most important collection of ancient Near Eastern wooden artifacts ever recovered.
After the excavation of the three tombs between 1956 and 1959, the furniture and wooden objects were conserved using available methods, and studied briefly. Some were placed in storage at Gordion, but most of the collection was taken to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Research continued on the finds, which were published in Young's posthumous excavation report (Young 1981). It was during the preparation of Young's volume that many of the original interpretations and drawings of the wooden objects were found to be incorrect (Simpson 1996; Simpson and Spirydowicz 1999).
Further attempts to study the objects revealed that the wood was deteriorating, with some pieces so fragile that they could not be handled. Because of the importance of the collection, the University of Pennsylvania Museum initiated a rescue project in 1981 to restudy, conserve, and republish the furniture and wooden objects from Gordion.