Study on the deterioration features of an archaeological basket made of palm fronds at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

Hamed, N. G., El Hadidi, N.M.N., R. Hamdy, and M. Ghanam, "Study on the deterioration features of an archaeological basket made of palm fronds at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization", JARCH_Volume 11_Issue 2022_Pages 449-461, vol. 11, issue 2022, pp. 440-451, 2022.


One of the baskets preserved in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, that appears to be suffering from various deterioration aspects was chosen for this paper, in order to document and record the different features of damage, as a preliminary step for its treatment and conservation. The basket, which is registered under no. 71 at the museum, was one of the finds from the excavations of Cairo University. The documentation of the basket included photography, Photoshop and AutoCAD figures, in which the aspects of deterioration are featured so that non-specialists can easily identify the decay of the basket.
Fragments that had fallen off the basket were used to identify the plants that had been used for making the basket. By comparing the fragile samples under the microscope with fresh fibers of plants that were commonly used throughout the ancient Egyptian periods for making baskets, it was possible to prove that the basket was composed of palm fronds. The wide distribution of date palms in ancient Egypt has been previously confirmed, according to numerous archaeological discoveries, since prehistoric times. Seeds and dates, as well as products manufactured from different parts of the date palm tree have been found on archaeological sites; e.g. baskets, mats, sieves, brushes, ropes and fruit-bearing stems, in addition to the frequent appearance of two types of palm trees in ancient Egyptian mural paintings and inscriptions.
The results of the examination and analysis of the basket indicated that the palm fronds, that had been used in manufacturing the basket have distinctive chemical and physical characteristics, and by studying these characteristics and the extent of the deterioration that occurred over the centuries, it was possible to specify the chemical changes of the functional groups of the plant fibers with the aid of FTIR analysis. These results should aid, in the near future, conservators to perform various treatments to strengthen decayed fibers using some appropriate natural materials, and then prepare reports in which they document the stages of “before - during - after” conservation, which could be a reference for anyone working in the field of plant fiber conservation and treatment.

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