Scanning Microscopy


The scanning electron microscope was used in a study of consolidative treatments for archaeological wooden objects. The surfaces of specimens taken from ancient Egyptian wood artifacts (Dynasty XII, ca. 1991-1786 B.C.) were examined for evidence of microstructural deterioration prior to consolidation with paraffin wax, a typical field treatment. The microstructural appearance of wood subjected to treatments used in conservation was investigated. The distribution of a wax and an acrylic resin used in consolidation was studied, as well as the success of consolidant removal by solvent extraction, and the effects of further treatment with an acrylic resin.

SEM examination revealed significant mechanical, microbiological, and structural damage prior to consolidation. After wax consolidation, microstructure was obscured and surface appearance was significantly altered. Solvent extraction of wax was found to be incomplete. Acrylic resin treatment allowed handling of samples without apparent damage, while maintaining the visibility of wood structure and satisfactory surface appearance. Damage to wood microstructure was observed when solvent alone was used.

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