My two-week placement was already nearing its end and I had worked on a range of shiny little treasures, when Pieta – the Hoard Conservation Manager – put a new beauty on my table:
Beauty might seem a strange word for this clump of soil that was lying in front of me, as only a few red and golden areas gave vague hints on what was underneath that thick brown layer.
A first optical examination did not reveal much, except that the shape resembled that of a tiny lute. So the only thing left to do was to cautiously remove the soil and await the things to come.
Strange as it sounds, sitting for hours in front of a microscope and staring down on a small object while minutely picking away dirt from it can be indeed fun for me, especially if more than expected turns up. In this case not only one, but three objects surfaced, all of which I carefully documented and then removed from my tiny excavation. Object 1 and 3, a fitting and presumably part of a hilt collar, were both decorated with garnet cloisonné, object 2 was a plain golden metal sheet that had probably been part of a hilt plate.
Due to the constraints of my time I could only treat objects 1 and 2: I cleaned the remaining soil away taking care neither to loosen any of the garnets nor to scratch the delicate golden surface. Already loose garnets were fixed with a drop of adhesive to prevent their loss.
So although all the objects I treated during my short stay at the BMAG were amazing and a treat to work on, K296 was my cherry on the cake. All that remains for me to do is to thank the conservation lab team for the chance to take a tiny part in the conservation of the Staffordshire Hoard and to make these two weeks a great experience for me!
Professional placements are generously funded by the Mercers Trust