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Archive for the ‘Updates from the Queen Anne’s Revenge’ Category

This post is by Shanna Daniels, QAR Conservator.

Many of you are probably wondering what happens to the artifacts once they are recovered from the shipwreck site. At the end of each day, QAR field staff carefully transfers artifacts from the recovery vessel to storage tanks containing water, dockside.  At the end of each week, field staff prepares objects for the journey to the QAR lab by packing them in Rubbermaid containers well padded with wet foam and rags. Once off loaded at the QAR Lab, the objects are placed in temporary wet storage (in tanks containing tap water) until the following week, when the post-recovery processing fun begins for the QAR Lab staff.

The purpose of post-recovery processing is to document, record and catalog each artifact as it comes into the lab, to begin the paper trail and then to get artifacts into an appropriate storage environment as soon as possible.  Recording and documenting includes weighing, measuring, correctly labeling artifact tags, and photography. Each artifact has a unique find number that relates back to its location on site, and which will be used to document everything that happens to the object in future.

Post-recovery processing gives the QAR Lab staff their first opportunity to see the artifacts and to note if anything in particular stands out with each artifact.  For example, if we observe a ceramic embedded in the concretion, we’ll note it.

After every artifact has been processed, the next stage is to place the artifacts in long-term stable wet storage. Concretions are usually placed first in numbered crates and then the crates are placed in a numbered tank; the crate and tank location of each artifact is noted on the objects’ record so they can be easily found.  Each tank contains a basic solution with a pH of 10 (2.5% sodium carbonate in tap water) to slow down the corrosion that could continue to occur if placed in just regular tap water.  Ceramics, glass, wood, and other organics are placed in tap water.   Once stable in wet storage the artifacts await the next step in their conservation treatment.

The final stage in the post-recovery process is completion of documentation.  Each artifact’s information is recorded on a lab sheet, as well as on the QAR artifact database.  This information provides not only the weights, measurements, and storage location of each artifact but also where the artifact was recovered from on the site.  Documentation is a crucial part of conservation because it starts the process of analysis and conservation for the artifacts.  It allows both archaeologist and conservators to view, locate, and analyze each artifact while it goes through the conservation process here at the QAR Lab.

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This post, by QAR Field Director, Conservator and Laboratory Manager Wendy Welsh, is the first in series of field updates we’ll be bringing you each week. 

When we returned to the site on Thursday, the majority of our equipment was buried under about 2 feet of sediment! The morning was spent digging out the grid frames and getting ourselves back to where we were the week before. By the afternoon when low tide came upon us it was time to recover the artifacts from unit 228. Some of the worst visibility can be experienced at low tide and this time was no different. In situations such as these it is best to have a minimum number of people in the hole just for safety as you have to navigate with a lift basket around hoses, lines and the main ballast pile with artifacts proud of the seafloor.  This crew is very experienced in dark water diving, so by the end of the day the majority of the artifacts, mainly ballast stones, were removed from unit 228.  The crew worked an extra-long day seeing how three days during the week were missed, the first ever 7 a.m.-7 p.m. shift was put in on the QAR site!  The crew celebrated with dinner at No Name Pizza, a time-honored tradition with this project.

The long hours the crew put in on the previous day really paid off on Friday. High tide was at the perfect time during the day to have great visibility for the recovery of artifacts. The simple fact that one can see makes working underwater so much more efficient. When the visibility is good we usually have four people working on the recovery of a unit. One diver is mapping, one diver is digging, one diver is tagging artifacts and handing them to the diver manning the lift basket, which makes working through units so much faster. By the end of the day we completed two units (228 & 229) with the majority of 230 recovered. The site was closed up for the weekend as we secured our dredges and grid frames.

Some additions to the crew this week were Shanna Daniel, QAR Conservator and Dave “Framis” Wertheimer of Nautilus Productions.  Shanna came out from the lab to help with artifact recovery and post processing.  Dave shot video of the topside activities that go on but managed to find himself put to work on the sluice box from time to time.  We enjoyed having them out but only wish the weather was better for their visit.

The weather looks great for today, so it will hopefully be another productive week.

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This post, by QAR Field Director, Conservator and Laboratory Manager Wendy Welsh, is the first in series of field updates we’ll be bringing you each week. 

In April, the QAR project was awarded a mini-grant from Sea Grant to develop an on-site  corrosion model using corrosion potential monitoring of the large iron artifacts, i.e. cannon and anchors.  We refer to this process as ‘in situ monitoring.’ The goal is to get all the cannon and anchors on site tested and as many that are attainable, hooked up to sacrificial anodes, referred to as cathodic protection.  There are four cannon (C12, C14, C17 & C20) staged at the south and we were able to obtain readings and hook up all guns with anodes with the exception C17 which will be left with no cathodic protection as a control.  Katrina Twing, an ECU Ph.D. student in biology, completed a water quality analysis and sediment sampling around the cannon–this will feed into this corrosion model.  We have more in situ monitoring to do at the main ballast pile but we are awaiting some supplies so we will continue this study later in the fieldwork and will keep you posted.

All the in situ monitoring at the south was completed by Wednesday so we changed gears and prepared the boat for artifact recovery.  The crew spent most of the day removing the 3 feet of overburden sediment with 6 inch dredges that discharge off site.  Once we made it down to the cultural layer we started using the 3 inch dredges that flow to the top of the deck and all sediment passes through the sluice boxes for small finds recovery.

We only had one sluice box working so we did what we could to start the process of recovery.  We were able to remove the first layer of ballast stones and a few concretions.   Much more work will be needed on this unit and once we get back out there we will get right on it.  The few artifacts recovered were taken back to the Cultural Resources QAR Conservation Lab at ECU in Greenville.

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This post is by Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Lab Director and the Underwater Archaeology Branch’s Chief Conservator.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory (QAR Lab) is primarily tasked with the examination, conservation, documentation, and study of artifacts recovered from the shipwreck NCDCR314; Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, which sank in 1718. The QAR Lab has been located at East Carolina University (ECU) since 2003.  Established under a Memorandum of Agreement between NCDCR and ECU its operation is a partnership to “…promote their mutual goals of archaeological and historical research on this important site and the era in North Carolina and world history that it represents.” ECU provides facility services, student graduate assistants, and consultation with faculty, while NCDCR is responsible for management of the shipwreck site and direction of the QAR Lab. There is also close collaboration with the N.C. Maritime Museum (NCMM) in Beaufort, which, as the final repository for treated artifacts, is responsible for their long-term care and interpretation to the public.

ECU’s West Research Campus (ECU-WRC) is an excellent location for the QAR Lab with good ground level access to buildings for large vehicles and artifacts and space with the potential for development and expansion of conservation as well as research and education activities. The QAR Lab includes: a wet/dirty small objects lab; clean-work lab; larger wet/dirty lab; photographic studio; x-radiography system; office and documentation room. Also, one of the large warehouses on the site is equipped for the storage and treatment of large objects (cannon, ships timbers) and electrolytic reduction treatment of metal finds.

QAR artifact related operations range from in-situ monitoring and preservation, to recovery (including inventory, field storage and transportation of artifacts), and conservation (stable storage, examination and analysis, cleaning, stabilization, data management, and study of artifacts), through to transfer to the North Carolina Maritime Museums  repository and display.  The Lab is staffed by three permanent NCDCR staff:  QAR Lab Director/Chief Conservator; QAR Conservator/Lab Manager; and QAR Conservator. In addition, depending on annual budgets there are one to three temporary conservation positions, as well as two to six graduate assistants, and volunteers.

As a working conservation lab linked to a major on-going archaeological project, the QAR Lab provides a unique resource for artifact studies as well as for research opportunities and education in conserving artifacts from a marine environment for students and researchers at ECU and for a wider community of archaeologists, museum staff, and other professionals.  Work undertaken by the lab is guided by professional codes of practice as defined by the American Institute for Conservation. The QAR Lab disseminates information on work done through publications and presentations at seminars and conferences and the project’s website.

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