First Aids for excavated textiles and similar organic finds
Textiles are extremely sensitive to the process of excavation and necessitate special care. In case a textile or other relevant find, such as rope, cordage and basketry is found at an excavation the following should take place:
- A specialised conservator should be contacted.
- No attempt should be made to consolidate the find in-situ.
- The find will need to remain as stable as possible and at conditions similar to those prevailing at burial, therefore:
1. In case the textile or relevant organic material is found in contact with another material, such as metal or ceramic, no attempt should be made in-situ to separate them. The find should remain as a whole and transported to the closest conservation laboratory.
2. In case a loose fragment of textile or other relevant material is found this should not be handled by bare hands, only with gloves. The find should only be lifted adequately supported by a thick polyethylene film or card and placed in a polyethylene container. If special polyethylene bags impenetrable by oxygen are available then these should be used to store the find.
- In any case, during transport the find should be protected with appropriate synthetic material for protection from movement and to prevent micro-organism growth (such as, polyethylene and acrylic polymer films and polyethylene foam sheets and blocks). Once at the conservation lab, the find should remain protected in a polyethylene container with a small quantity of ethanol (e.g. an ethanol impregnated piece of polyethylene foam). The container should be kept in a fridge, until a conservator arrives, to avoid rapid and uncontrolled drying.
3. In case a textile or other relevant material is found in contact with soil, then it should block-lifted and transported to the closest conservation laboratory. Appropriate materials such as, polyurethane foam and polyethylene sheets should be used to protect the block during transport.