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Restoration – Conservation

Varusschlacht im Osnabrücker Land gGmbH operates its own restoration workshop, allowing the museum to treat all finds obtained during excavations and surveys in a professional manner.

In a first step, the artifacts are examined on the actual excavation site immediately after recovery. If necessary, they are stabilized to prevent disintegration.

Most archaeological objects (i.e. all finds that are retrieved from the soil) that need to be restored are extremely dirty and corroded. In Kalkriese, the largest group of finds consists of metal objects. This is mostly due to the soil properties, which do not provide good preservation conditions for organic materials. Well-preserved organic materials are the exception: if at all, they are only found in direct contact with metal objects, for example wood fragments which have been preserved in the socket of a lance tip, or textile remains adhering to coins.

The restoration of the finds aims at unveiling their old, original surfaces. In all cases, this is done manually with various instruments and tools. This work is carried out with the aid of a binocular eyepiece, allowing restorators to see each detail of the respective object. All stains and materials corroded onto the archaeological artifact are removed layer by layer. Sometimes the restorators are in for a nice surprise, for example when they uncover beautiful ardornments that were invisible before. It is also quite common that finds are broken. Then they are reassembled and glued together.
The uncovering of an artifact’s outer shape, adornments, inscriptions and traces of tool use form the basis of the archaeologists’ work, who can only scientifically evaluate and classify a find after these steps have been taken.

Another important aspect of the treatment of archaeological finds, besides their restoration, is their conservation. Conservation aims at stabilizing an object’s condition, at preventing any further damage and at slowing down the corrosion processes that are taking place. For this purpose, the iron finds undergo a desalination process in a special bath, and all objects are stored in an air-conditioned archive that provides a constant climate of 20 degrees Celsius and 25 percent relative humidity all year long.

All objects – even the tiniest fragments – are documented. Photos of them are taken before and after restoration, and each object is assigned its own file. This file serves to record when it was treated, how it was treated and with which chemicals. It is also entered when an object is loaned out and to whom. If an artifact is requested for loan, a protocol of its condition is made out before it goes on its journey. In this protocol all the small changes the artifact is subject to during the time of the loan are recorded.