Practical reburial of archaeological timbers and environmental monitoring: a case study (project 5497)

Author(s): Paul Simpson, Rosie Lansley

The Isle of Wight Council has been working in partnership with Historic England to develop a cost effective methodology for the long-term preservation of waterlogged archaeological wood by reburial in a natural storage environment. This report presents the methods and results of reburial of timbers within a wetland terrestrial site, the accompanying on-site environmental monitoring and results of analytical techniques used to determine the degradation rates of the waterlogged archaeological wood. After desk-based assessment, mapping and analytical studies, a site was identified which could provide a suitable burial environment. This was then tested by reburial of timbers selected from IOW archaeological sites. Samples of the buried timbers were taken at intervals, and the complete timbers retrieved after three years burial. These were tested for moisture content and examined with FTIR, XRD, SEM and laser scanning. Radiocarbon measurements were made to investigate if wet storage and reburial affected determinations. Results from all the analytical techniques showed a range of deterioration characteristics broadly demonstrating a minimal impact over the relatively short period of testing. Groundwater from a borehole at the test site was continuously monitored during the study. Results indicate that the burial environment remained highly reduced, pH and electrical conductivity remained relatively stable and the fluctuating water table remained above the depth of the reburied timbers. This would indicate that site conditions are favourable for preserving waterlogged wood.

Report Number:
Research Report
Wood, Waterlogged Decay Preservation Reburial


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