The Jamestown Rediscovery conservation and curatorial staff have their hands full with the thousands of artifacts excavated from the fort's first well in 2009. Senior Conservator Michael Lavin is removing concretions from a collection of about 60 coins found in the well. The majority of these are heavily oxidized and Michael will need to remove quite a bit of corrosion before being able to identify them. Conservator Dan Gamble is working on a dagger blade also found in the well. Due to the fragile nature of the blade, Dan is using air abrasion to remove the rust. The process is tedious but necessary when dealing with compromised metals.
A group of about 60 coins found during the excavations of the fort's first well in 2009 are so corroded that no identifications can be made. Because coins are dated and many have mint marks indicating their place of origin, they are important indicators while piecing together the whos, whats, and whens of the feature they're found in. Senior Conservator Michael Lavin is using a pneumatic scribe vibrating at 30,000 times per second to remove most of the concretions from the coins in a matter of minutes. Using a traditional pick would have taken hours. Once the scribe has removed enough of the corrosion, Michael then uses a pick to more delicately remove the concretions close to the coin's surface.
Conservator Dan Gamble is conserving a dagger blade found in the well. Using the Jamestown Rediscovery Project's x-ray machine, Dan observed that the original metal portions were too delicate or non-existent in places, and removing the rust by electrolysis would likely have destroyed all but the center portion of the blade. Air abrasion, a more delicate method of rust removal, is being used instead. An air abrader is a hand-held tool similar in form to a pencil that propels a fine powder at an object through the use of pressurized air. Though time-intensive, the tool has a fine tip and enables a high level of precision, perfect for objects that can't withstand a brute-force approach to rust removal.
Our video this month features Bly Straube, Senior Archaeological Curator for Preservation Virginia. Bly discusses some of the artifacts found in the well, their function, and their place of origin.