THE USE OF CYCLODODECANE AS A TEMPORARY BARRIER FOR WATER-SENSITIVE INK ON ARCHAEOLOGICAL CERAMICS DURING DESALINATION
VANESSA MUROS, & JOHN HIRX
The presence of soluble salts in porous materials is a problem frequently encountered by conservators treating archaeological objects. Because of their potential for damaging artifacts, the salts often have to be removed through desalination, whether by immersion, washing, or poulticing with water. This treatment can be problematic when the surface of the object is very fragile or when water-sensitive inks, pigments, or binders are present. In such instances, the surfaces of the artifacts have generally been consolidated, commonly with a resin, prior to desalination, to stabilize these areas (Strahan 1996; Koob 1991). Although consolidation may protect the object, it can sometimes alter the surface, making it dark or shiny, and can ultimately be difficult to completely remove after treatment.
Cyclododecane (CDD), a volatile binder, has been primarily used in conservation as a temporary consolidant, barrier, or fixative for a variety of materials during treatment or transport. It is cyclododecane's potential application as a fixative or hydrophobic barrier over water-sensitive materials such as inks, dyes, pigments, and binding media (Hangleiter 1998; Bandow 1999; Blüher et al. 1999; Brückle et al. 1999) that is the focus of this study. Research in the field of paper conservation in particular has shown the effectiveness of cyclododecane as a temporary fixative for ink on paper during washing. Not only have the hydrophobic properties of this material been useful in these aqueous treatments, but also the fact that it sublimes at room temperature ensures that the fixing is temporary.
For this study, the previous use of cyclododecane as a temporary fixative was modified for a series of tests that examined the effectiveness of the barrier produced in protecting water-sensitive ink on archaeological ceramics during desalination. The aim of this research was to examine the working properties of CDD and determine which films would protect the ink on modern terracotta samples during a mock desalination. The results of these tests would then be applied to the desalination of an Egyptian ostracon, an inscribed terracotta sherd (fig. 1). It is hoped that the research conducted will help in determining the viability and applicability of CDD as a material that can be used in the desalination of inscribed archaeological ceramics.