Part of this is down to the area of the hoard we were working on recently. Our 5cm depth layer of coin removal had reached the hoard's "pointy end" and was working its way back acroos the surface again. Removal of the coins itself has been going very well but we have hit a dry patch as to other items such as the gold jewellery.
We've also temporarily actually stopped coin removal. The Faro metrology arm we use for measuring the coins' positions has had to go back to Germany for its annual service. This should only take a week or so but we've had problems in the past with it getting stuck in customs both ways. We'd built up a backlog of removed but not cleaned coins to keep us going in its absence but we've become a victim of our own efficiency. We'd thought two thousand would keep us going quite a while but with all our volunteers we actually got through them in less than two weeks. We're using the time now to catch up on photography and computer records but hopefully we'll be up and running again soon.
Viki pointed out a couple of days ago that it was her first anniversary on this project. This also meant that the project itself was one year into its three year timetable. We're pretty relaxed about progress at the moment. We didn't actually get trained up on the Faro unit and start removing coins until September last year but we've actually removed nearly 22,000 of the estimated 70,000. This is pretty much on course for completion and it's particularly good news because we weren't achieving anything like this rate until a couple of months ago so our new way of working should see us to the end with no problems. Thanks for this goes largely to our team of volunteers so well done to them and to Viki and Georgia, my assistants who have been dealing with much of the day to day operations.
They've had to do this because I've been off the island doing various non-hoard jobs recently. I did a training course in Denmark in making electroform copies of museum artefacts. To do this you make a mould of the item with silicon rubber and then coat the inside of the mould with a conducting powder like graphite. This allows you to dip the mould in an electrolytic solution and deposit copper directly onto it. You therefore end up with a perfect copper copy of the object. This is useful because if one were copying for example some gold jewellery from the hoard, one could then gold plate the finished copy and it would be indistinguishable from the original. Also the copies are so fantastically accurate that they can even be used for high power scanning electron microscopy. This will be great for studying tool marks and similar on things like the torques which otherwise would not fit into the microscope chamber.
Another weirder job was a trip to Paris last week to pick up a neanderthal. Despite how this sounds it isn't what I do in my spare time but it was to collect an epoxy resin and silicon rubber hyper-realistic figure for an Ice Age exhibition we are opening in October. It's a life size male neanderthal holding a stone tool. The realism these days is quite extraordinary as the silicon skin is soft and allows individual human hairs to be implanted. The pick up itself was actually quite easy thanks to satnav but I wasn't prepared for the heat. I hit a mini heatwave going over and it reached 36.C This was no fun in an old Ford Transit stuck on the peripherique for two hours, particularly since I had to keep the windows closed to hear the satnav. In the end though neither I nor the Neanderthal (who I learnt was called Flo) melted so all was well.