- Alexandra Baldwin, conservator, metal and ceramic artefacts
- Jamie Hood, conservator, historic and archaeological metalwork
- Jody Joy, curator, British and European Iron Age Collections
- Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, Wessex Archaeology
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Conserving the Chiseldon cauldrons
As part of the process of conserving the cauldrons found at Chiseldon, they will be excavated from their soil blocks, cleaned and preserved. The aim is to reveal how they were made, the context of manufacture, how long they were used for, what they were used for and how, why and when they were deposited.
Conservation of one cauldron from Chiseldon has already taken place. It was micro-excavated from its soil block in the conservation lab at the British Museum. The plaster bandages and clingfilm barrier layer used to support the fragile object during lifting and transprt wre gradually cut away. Soil was removed from around the object in layers using small dental tools and scalpels. Each stage of the process was carefully recorded with photographs and drawings. The position of any detached fragments of metal or analytical sample was noted and then removed.
The cauldron had been buried upside down and was crushed due to the weight of overlying soil, pushing the base into the rim. It was in a worse condition than was initially thought, with the base and rim sections completely separate.
Access to the inside of the cauldron was necessary to remove soil deposits, but it could not be turned the right way up due to the fragility of the heavily corroded metal. Instead the sides of the cauldron were removed from the block in sections using existing cracks caused during burial.
A fibre glass and resin support was made for each section to cradle it during removal and cleaning. The interior of the cauldron was cleaned to remove the soil and small areas of repair and backng carried out to strengthen the metal.
The rim sections were then reassembled, although the rim and base remain separate as metal joining the two had corroded away during burial. A mount was made to support the base of the cauldron in its correct position.
Over the next two years each cauldron will be carefully conserved in turn. Technological details uncovered during conservation, and samples collected for analysis (including mineralised plant remains, bone, charcoal and possible food residues), will reveal information about how each cauldron was constructed and used.