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Unlocking Doha’s past: object conservation at UCL Qatar

By Kerry Milton, on 20 August 2015

Peering through a microscope, Eleni Asderaki-Tzoumerkioti carefully scrapes at the blue-green corrosion covering a metal artifact. Eleni has been a conservator of antiquities since 1978, and is an Honorary Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Archaeology since 2002, and at UCL Qatar since 2012. She specialises in metals with an extra research interest in glass and pigments. This expertise guides her as she conserves artifacts excavated during the Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation in 2013-2014.

Objects before conservation

QMA and UCL-Qatar Qubib Mosque Excavation

Conservation of these artefacts is critical; after excavation the artefacts can corrode remarkably, sometimes disintegrating completely while kept in storage. Conservation work both preserves artefacts and can help archaeologists identify details that were missed in excavation or obscured by corrosion.

Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation

The Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation team recovered several metal objects including coins jewlery, padlocks, daggers as well as objects for everyday use. Through conservation, Eleni has brought the artefacts back to life. Delicate scrollwork adorns the padlock that Eleni is working on, but when she turns the padlock over, there is a big surprise: the padlock has been forced open!

Eleni examining the padlock

There is a large puncture in the back of the padlock, only revealed under the careful work of a conservator. Eleni also X-rays the objects, revealing their inner workings, She then determines what they are made of through non-destructive XRF analysis.

X-rays of the padlocks

As research continues on the artefacts revealed by the Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation, we gain insights into daily life in early 20th century Doha.

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