You may recall from the last blog all those months ago that we had found what appears to be a leather purse or bag full of coins. Everything around it went on hold till we had some expert advice about how to deal with it. Well we had a visit in May from Esther Cameron, an archaeological leather and textile specialist and she did a very full report on the object with useful recommenations for conservation and future research. She suggested contacting the conservation department of the Museum of London which was great for me because I had worked with them before and have always found them incredibly helpful and supportive. Helen Ganiaris from the MoL contacted a colleague and (as of a first quick email this morning) they've recommended a different treatment than I had expected. I'd presumed we'd get the purse (and the coins it holds) freeze dried in England but the MoL have suggested drying it with solvents and then strengthening the leather with a consolidant (usually a polymer in a solvent that enters into and hardens the leather). I haven't had a chance to discuss this with them yet but it sounds like a great suggestion as it would mean I could do the work here at the hoard lab.
Other than waiting on the purse we have continued our daily coin removal. We've passed 45000 now with perhaps 26000 left. It's been a real surprise how inaccurate and subjective one's visual impression of the hoard's size is. Even as recently as a month ago we thought we must have underestimated the total coin numbers as there seemed so much left but over the last couple of weeks the hoard really seems to have shrunk. Suddenly we were doing the maths about the rate of coin removal and wondering if we have enough coins left to last the rest of the year even.
Although we haven't found any new jewellery or other striking finds for the last month or so it has become bug central in the hoard. At first we were amazed when we found our millipede last year and thought that was a freak survival but recently we've been seeing five or ten arthropods a day and our specimen fridge is filling fast.........
NEWSFLASH, 11.17am just called away from the keyboard by Georgia and Viki who have just discovered a large (4-5cm) curved copper alloy object amidst the coins. There you go, after a month or more of finding nothing interesting it turns out all you need to do is complain about it in a blog and stuff starts oozing out of the hoard! I wish I'd realized that earlier.
Anyway, back to our normal work. We've contacted a couple of entomologists so hopefully we'll start getting some species identification soon on our various arthropods. Possibly they'll be able to tell us at which time of the year they'd have been found in the undergrowth or whatever then and that would be quite something.
The nicest conservation job I've had in the last month has been on some silver wire. We'd found a coin a while ago with a large green corrosion lump attached to it. Under a microscope we could see tiny silver wires poking out of this in places. I tried doing some cleaning with my trusty berberis thorns but the corrosion was too hard and the wire too fragile so in the end I treated the corrosion chemically with formic acid. After immersion for about an hour the bundle of curled up wire became very easy to see. We've found one similar bundle before so we will compare them soon. The wire is so thin (fractions of a millimeter) that we think it was probably intended for inlaying on objects for decoration.
Well that's about it for now. Once I know more about the new "thing" I'll let you know