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Why Preserve Archaeological Wooden Remains?

Why Preserve Archaeological Wooden Remains?

Throughout antiquity, wood has had diverse and widespread uses, from structures, ships, everyday house-hold items as well as a domestic and industrial fuel source. Its influence on human activity has been significant and the study of wood has the potential to provide evidence about economy, material culture, industry, landscape characterisation and scientific dating. It is now thought that wood, along with other organic materials (leather textiles etc.) could well account for between 90% and 95% of the potential archaeological record. However, its significance and ubiquity has often been skewed because wood rarely survives in the archaeological record unless deposits are waterlogged and oxygen-free. Charred wood (either wholly or partly) can survive in oxygenated conditions as can mineralised wood associated with corroding iron and copper alloy artefacts. Saturated below-ground deposits such as that found in York, Hull and London have created conditions which are ideal for the preservation of large quantities of waterlogged wood dating from the Roman period onwards. But their excavation, recovery, conservation and long-term curation are often perceived as very expensive and problematic. Consequently, many of the earlier discoveries underwent basic recording followed by discard. However, with the setting up of a dedicated wood conservation facility in York during the mid-1990s, together with other initiatives, the overall situation is changing with more and more discoveries actively undergoing investigation and conservation. Through a series of case studies ranging from the Mesolithic through to the 1960s, this webinar will consider the reasons why waterlogged archaeological wooden remains are being preserved.

About the Speaker

Ian Panter

Currently the Head of Conservation for York Archaeology (the commercial division of York Archaeological Trust) where he is responsible for the operation of the conservation laboratory preserving a wide range of artefacts from terrestrial, waterlogged and marine environments for clients from the UK and abroad. He worked for the Mary Rose Trust and Portsmouth City Museum before heading to York in 1990 to work as one of the English Heritage contract conservators based in the North of England, helping Jim Spriggs (then Head of Conservation for YAT) to establish the large-scale wood conservation facility in York which now takes on contracts from across the UK and abroad. Recent projects include the conservation of artefacts and logboats from the prehistoric settlement at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire, a 19th Century vessel discovered in Darling Harbour, Sydney, and artefacts from the Gloucester, wrecked off Great Yarmouth in 1682 with the then Duke of York onboard. Before taking up his current position with YAT Ian spent six years as the English Heritage Regional Science Advisor (Yorkshire region) advising curators and developers on the archaeological science requirements for developer-funded projects, and developing expertise in reburial and in-situ preservation schemes, including deposit characterisation and groundwater monitoring.


10 January 2023


7:00 pm - 8:15 pm


Online (Zoom)

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