In 2007, a substantial piece of armor was recovered from Structure 183, the Blacksmith Shop/Bakery. The artifact is a backplate, a piece worn with a breastplate for protecting the back. Once delicately removed from the field, the armor was stored in our dry room to stabilize it until conservators could begin the conservation process. The backplate was x-rayed to determine how much metal, specifically iron, was still present. This would help indicate the weak points of the armor.
One this process was completed, conservation could begin. The first step in the conservation process was to remove the grit and heavy rust affixed to the piece. This was accomplished with air-abrasion, essentially a small sand blaster, although this equipment is a little more delicate. Dentists use the same equipment to create dentures. Instead of sand, aluminum oxide is used, which is about the same consistency of baking soda.
Air abrasion is a very delicate process and requires a lot of skill. This portion of the conservation process will take 3-4 months to complete. Currently, Senior Conservator Dan Gamble has been working on the piece for three weeks and about a quarter of the corrosion product has been removed. Stay tuned for updates covering the conservation of this unique artifact!