Archaeological Processing - The Wall Paintings of Tell el-Dab'a

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Archaeological Processing

To facilitate the work in a team, the work flow has been standardized to allow comparative studies within the corpus of Tell el-Dab'a. Along with the study of single categories with their specific set of archaeological and anthropological problems, a central aim and responsibility of the project is to catalogue all painted plaster fragments that have been found during the excavation of the palatial complex at 'Ezbet Helmi/Tell el-Dab'a. To reach that goal the material has been rearranged according to their find context between 2007 and 2011. Furthermore a database has been compiled, which merges all relevant information of the single pieces: Beside the find spot, emphasis is placed on descriptions of iconographic and technical characteristics, the attribution of fragments to specific groups or even reconstructions, and to their current storage, an essential administrative effort due to the huge amount of material which is stored today in three big magazines on the site. The macro- and microscopically obtained technical observations will be selectively complemented by different scientific analytical methods. The current work focuses on areas H/I and H/III where the major part of the material has been found. To date, 7500 pieces have been registered and described. Images of the fragments are produced with a scanner, which allows high-resolution pictures on a scale of 1:1 without any distortion. If the size or weight of a fragment does not permit scanning, photographs are taken. These illustrations are also used for a digital enhancement of the colours of relevant fragments, with a vector graphics editor to accentuate details that are less visible. In publications, however, these enhanced illustrations will be juxtaposed with their unaltered versions in order to make the accentuations comprehensible and verifiable. This method also makes it easily possible to illustrate the sequence of the different applications of paint by the ancient craftspeople, tracing the work flow and practice in the second millennium. As a second step, tentative reconstructions are digitally drawn. In comparison to analogue reconstructions with the original fragments, these virtual reconstructions not only have the advantage that the present state of preservation is not at risk, but also that different suggestions can be opposed to each other, emphasizing the variability of possible reconstructions of the highly fragmented material.

Sequence of paint applications
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