ARTS(AO)401 Conservation of Archaeological Artifacts - Section A, Nora Marosi, Spring 2020 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS(AO)401 Conservation of Archaeological Artifacts - Section A, Nora Marosi, Spring 2020

(Minimum of 77 hours: 20 lecture hours and 57 practice hours)


Several different topics are presented through lectures and reading assignments. Students learn about on-site intervention, the basic nature of inorganic and organic materials, the chemical, biological, and physical causes of decay, the effects of good and bad human intervention, and methods of conservation.

These main conservation issues are:
• Problems occurring during excavation procedures.
• Environmental changes and their effects on archaeological finds.
• Soluble and insoluble salts (encrustation, corrosion) - origins, effects and removal.
• Cleaning procedures (mechanical and chemical).
• Reassembling, filling.
• Consolidation and application of possible protective layers.


This is the most unique and emphasized aspect of the course because students get the opportunity to work directly on ancient Etruscan, Roman, and Picenian artifacts. All required conservation-restoration procedures are discussed, reasoned and performed together in class. This approach enables the student to understand the problems faced by a conservator in handling the vast number and types of materials he/she may encounter.

The most important goal of the course is to teach the reasoning behind the choices made by conservators regarding the appropriate steps to take in the preservation of artifacts, as well as making students aware of the positive and negative effects of materials used in conservation. The course also helps students become aware of the historical and aesthetical value of an archaeological artifact, while determining the best solution, and finding the right environment, to prolong its life.

Conservation Projects - Excavation Sites

  • Cetamura del Chianti – Etruscan/Roman and Medieval site (3rd century BCE - 4th century AD).Unique opportunity for students to actively participate in the conservation-restoration of underground and waterlogged finds. Work performed by students will be a substantial part of the preparative phase for the opening of a new museum in Gaiole in Chianti with a permanent display about Cetamura and the Origins of Historic Chianti.
  • Belmonte Warrior’s grave (artifacts of funerary set) – Picenian culture (6th century BCE) from the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Florence


Week 1

Wednesday, Jan. 15 and Friday, Jan 17
Introduction to Archaeological Conservation at SACI
Lecture on Theory and Ethics of Conservation-Restoration and Sequence of Conservation

Simulation practice on ceramic vessels (reassembly)

Week 2

Wednesday, Jan. 22 and Friday, Jan. 24

Lecture on Cleaning of archaeological ceramics
Simulation practice on ceramic vessels (reassembly)

Week 3

Wednesday, Jan. 29 and Friday, Jan. 31

Documentation and cleaning tests on Etruscan-Roman ceramic artifacts

Week 4

Wednesday, Feb. 5 and Friday, Feb. 7

Lecture on Ancient Ceramic Technology

Cleaning, assembly and consolidation of ceramics

Week 5

Wednesday, Feb. 12 and Friday, Feb. 14

Lecture on Adhesives in Conservation
Cleaning, assembly and consolidation of ceramics

Week 6

Wednesday, Feb. 19 and Friday, Feb. 21

Lecture on conservation/restoration procedures (filling).

Practice filling

Week 7

Wednesday, Feb. 26 and Friday, Feb 28
Continue conservation treatments on artifacts

Review for Midterm Exam

Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK (Feb 29 – March 8)

Week 9

Wednesday, March 11 and Friday, March 13

Midterm Exam

Week 10

Wednesday, March 18 and Friday, March 20
Introduction to metal decay and conservation treatments
Selection, documentation and cleaning of metal artifacts

Week 11

Wednesday, March 25 and Friday March, 27
Lecture and discussion on decay factors and conservation techniques of metals
Cleaning, assembly and filling of metal and ceramic artifacts

Week 12

Wednesday, April 1 and Friday, April 3
Continue conservation-restoration work on metal and ceramic artifacts

Week 13

Wednesday, April 8 and Friday, April 10
Continue conservation-restoration work on metal and ceramic artifacts

Week 14

Wednesday, April 15 and Friday, April 17
Review for Final Exam
Continue conservation-restoration work and documentation

Week 15

Wednesday, April 22 and Friday, April 24
Final Exam – Assignments’ due date
Conclusion of conservation-restoration work and documentation


You are asked to keep accurate documentation (written and photographic) of your work. This is also necessary for the official documentation that will be given to the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany.

You will have to hand in:



a) the Official Conservation Card for each artifact on which you have worked



b) an additional in-depth Written Report with photographs
The report should be as detailed as possible containing the following facts:



























Graduate Students
​Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.


A Midterm and a Final Exam will be held to check your knowledge of archaeological conservation acquired through lectures, readings, visits, and practical work on archaeological conservation. The exams usually consist in a written test of 4-5 short essay questions and a multiple choice section.


Your final grade for the course will be determined by:

1) effort, improvement and quality of hands-on work performed in class (i.e. precision, care, perseverance) – 30%
2) accuracy of handed in conservation card and written report (including photos) – 30%
3) exam grade (midterm and final) - 40%
4) attendance

Class attendance is compulsory. Only absences owing to a documented illness or emergency are excused by the Dean. Two unexcused absences result in a lowering of the grade by 1/3 of a letter. Two late arrivals to class are considered the equivalent of one unexcused absence.

Teaching Materials

Teaching materials (PP presentation, readings, videos) will be available for students via email and/or flash drive (available to all in the SACI library). Students will be given further instructions.


In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading. Note: It is not necessary to purchase the books below. They are available for loan or can be consulted in the SACI Worthington Library.

Selected readings from the following reference books will be indicated.

Archaeological Conservation

1. Conservation on Archaeological Excavations, Edited by N. P. Stanley Price, ICCROM, 1995.
ISBN 9290771305 (Retail price: €9)

2. J.M.Cronyn, The Elements of Archaeological Conservation, London, 1990.
ISBN 0415012074 (Retail price $54.95)

3. Catherine Sease, A Conservation Manual for the Field Archaeologist, University of California, Los Angeles, 1994.
ISBN 0917956826 (Out of print. Digital publication available by Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press)

4. Corrado Pedelì, Stefano Pulga, Conservation Practices on Archaeological Excavation – Principles and Methods, The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 2013.
ISBN 9781606061589 (Retail price: $50)

5. Archaeological Conservation, SACI, Summer Term 2002.
(Photocopy in the SACI Worthington Library)

6. Susan Buys, Victoria Oakley, Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics, 1993.
ISBN 0750632194 (Retail price: $136.95)

7. Carla M. Sinopoli, Approaches to Archaeological Ceramics, New York, 1991.
ISBN 0306438526 (Retail price: $69.99)

- Metals only
1. David A. Scott, Copper and Bronze in Art, Getty Conservation Institute. Los Angeles, 2004.
ISBN 0892366389 (Retail price: $70)

2. Ancient and Historic Metals, ed. David A. Scott, Jerry Podany, Brian B. Considine, Proceedings of a Symposium by the Getty Conservation Institute - November 1991, Los Angeles, 1994
ISBN 0892362316 (Can be downloaded in sections from Getty Conservation Institute website)

On Conservation/Restoration (theory)

1. Cesare Brandi, Theory of Restoration, Rome, 1963 (English version 2005).
ISBN 8840440895 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

2. Chris Caple, Conservation Skills, New York, 2000.
ISBN 9780415188814 (Retail price: $49.95)

Readings on Etruscan Culture and Archaeology

1. Etruscans: Italy’s Lovers of Life, Time Life Books, Alexandria, 1995.
ISBN 9780809490455 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

2. Sybille Haynes, Etruscan Civilization, A Cultural History, The British Museum Press, London, 2000.
ISBN 9780714122281 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Additional Reading on Cetamura

1. Cetamura Antica, Traditions of Chianti, Edited by Nancy T. de Grummond, Publisher Florida State University, Tallahassee, 2000. (Check also Florida State University's website.)
ISBN 9781889282084 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

2. The Sanctuary of the Etruscan Artisans at Cetamura del Chianti; The legacy of Alvaro Tracchi , Edited by Nancy Grummond, Edifir, Florence, 2009.
ISBN 9788879704380 (Retail price: €35)

3. Wells of Wonders: New Discoveries at Cetamura del Chianti, Edited by Nancy Grummond, Edifir, Florence, 2017.
ISBN 9788879708432 (Retail price: €40)

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

Click here for a pdf of SACI's General Safety & Emergency Instructions.

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