Amanda Reiterman

                                                                                                            CLST 735—Papyrology

                                                                                                            October 10, 2006


Cartonnage Experiment:   048.3

 Dimensions:  20 mm. x 48 mm.

 Initial Condition and Observations:  This roughly rectangular piece is folded over onto itself in several directions (visible in Side A), so the layering that we see is possibly the result of folding and not the attachment of two separate pieces of papyrus.  At one of the edges the fibers are beginning to separate, and the piece as a whole is very fragile.  A tiny bit (2 mm. x 4 mm.) was discovered loose in the plastic casing.  It is unclear from what part this piece came, but it contains definite traces of two small letters rendered with a clear thin line.  A shiny surface covers Side B (akin to the peanut brittle substance in demonstration fragment 044), and seems to cover a yellow plaster-like material.  Embedded within this substance is another small bit that appears to have some letters. 

Small Piece from Casing

Side A                                                                          Side B

Procedure:  Because the fragment is quite brittle, I first try to humidify it.  I place the fragment on a square piece of cardboard that has been covered with a sheet of white paper (for visibility of the papyrus), and then saran wrap (to hold everything together and make separation easy).  I boiled about an inch of water in a large pot and place a strainer in it, resting on the rim. Then I lay the papyrus on the cardboard base in the strainer and place the cover loosely on the pot.  Periodically I remove the papyrus from the pot to test its pliability.  Occasionally I re-boil the water to maintain the humidity.

Boiler Setup                                         Strainer with Papyrus

I am able to successfully unfold the edge with the separating fibers. 

Initial Unfolding

The area with the shiny surface begins to pull away from the rest of the fragment so that I can insert my tweezers between.

It is unclear to me whether the papyrus underneath this shiny surface is a different piece or one of the folded layers.  I realize that I will have to remove the plastery surface to see how the layers and folds of the papyrus relate.

First I try to loosen this shiny, plastery layer with water.  It does not have a significant effect.  Using a q-tip, I apply a small amount of alcohol to the edge of the surface.  This seems to dissolve it appreciably so that I can gently scrape away the surface with tweezers and use the q-tip with alcohol for finer cleaning of the papyrus.  The yellowish brown substance beneath the shiny surface is gluey on top and has a grainy texture beneath.  I save it in case it proves valuable for later studies.

Initial Removal of Shiny Surface

Removal of the crust is tedious, and it seems as if the section of papyrus affixed with the plaster material is not attached to the main portion of my fragment.  While examining a bit that was dislodged from a clump within the plaster substance, I notice a dark black line that looks similar to the possible lettering on the tiny fragment that I mentioned in the beginning.  I examine this clump of papyrus, and what I had originally thought was only one layer was a layer with a split layer on top.  When I remove this split layer, there are three rounded letters going with the grain, which appear to be:

o s s/o(?)

Close-up on Letters

I set the pieces aside to dry and resume cleaning the next day. 

 I notice a few more pieces which might have small ink marks, but nothing conclusive.  When I begin cleaning the largest fragment for the second time, I see some possible ink, albeit very faded.  This piece is likely carbonized; cleaning does not remove the dark discoloration.  The possible letters would be quite small, comparable in size to the others.  There is also a different reflectivity over the posited ink when it is held under an angled light.

More cleaning could be done, but the pieces seem very fragile, so I will pause for now and consult Professor Kraft.  I place the pieces back on the plastic casing.  Although I am gentle, initial piece that I noticed had writing (see the first photo) breaks in two along the fiber.  I place these pieces next to one another and enclose them all in plastic for transport.  Later I remount the fragments on the plexiglas which Professor Kraft gave us.

Final Photo

//end; RAK 12de2006//