The Report about the Rescue Operation on April 21st

Removing the waterlogged archaeological artefacts

Published on 18 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials

Type:  Blog/Situation report

From the blog of the Yamagata Relief Network for Cultural Heritage

  • The Reporters: Akihiko Uematsu and Takahiro Kobayashi, members of Yamagata Relief Network for Cultural Heritage
  • Date: 9:00am-4:00pm, April 21st, 2011
  • Place: Fukushima Prefecture
  • Participants: Totally 15 members, 2 members of the local Board of Education, 10 members of the Fukushima Network for Preserving Historical Materials, 3 members of Yamagata Network
  • Purpose: Removing the waterlogged archaeological artefacts from the damaged repository, and preparing them for the transportation

The field condition

The facilities around the repository were gravely affected, and sand and earth which had poured into the repository were still built up inside there. Also, many cabinets had been knocked down by the sand and were in pieces. The container boxes were stored in those broken cabinets, so they were difficult to remove, furthermore, a large amount of sand and earth had poured into each container. There was no box which had not been affected by the sand. The debris was scattered around the repository, so it was hard to find temporary space for the rescued artefacts. Although the smell of the mould or something rotten wasn’t so strong, they were filled with dust.

The objectives and results of the operation

At first, we planned to carry the artefacts from the repository to the ground managed by the neighbouring cultural institution, and to temporarily place them there. However, the artefacts were too many to do so, moreover, previously we had to spend a lot of time to remove the fallen cabinets and the mud which had poured into the container boxes, so the operation was finished at the same time as the preparation for carrying and tidying them up.

The sequence of the operation

We dragged out the container boxes which were covered in a large amount of mud from the cabinets, and 2 members carried the boxes because they were extremely heavy due to the mud. After that, we carefully removed the water and mud so as not to let the artefacts also flow out, and piled up the boxes. As for the contents of each box, those which remained in their original condition were very few, some of them had only mud, and some had just a few plastic bags in which the artefacts had been kept.

In order to clearly judge each situation, we had to bring them outdoors and observe them well one by one. We pulled out all the container boxes from a cabinet, and carried the cabinet outdoors, and then took out the container boxes from the next cabinet. Like that, we repeated these operation several times.

As for the drawers ofthe site plans, they were also filled with a heavy amount of sand and earth. The drawers contained not only the site plans which were recorded when the excavational investigation was carried out, but also a lot of photos, notes and so on. At the beginning of the operation, we scheduled that simple rescue procedures would be done for them, however we abandoned this plan because they included abundant, various contents so we just transported some important documents and other materials to the neighbouring institution. On the repository floor, not only was sand and earth scattered, but also the archaeological artefacts, so we cleaned up the floor so as to tidy up those artefacts afterwards.

The remarks and summation

  1. We have finished carrying half of the collected artefacts and placed them in a temporary space. However, this operation will still require more time and effort because the container boxes were full of a large amount of sand and earth.
  2. As for this time’s operation, if someone with knowledge of buried properties was there, many artefacts would have been judged by proper methods and suitable measures carried out. However, the basic transportation operation didn’t need such expertise, so we did it.
  3. According to the municipal officers and the members of the Fukushima Network, they will continue to do this operation, and when they have prepared tidying the repository and have decided the oncoming plan, they will give us information.
  4. With regard to the Fukushima Network’s operation, although it might be difficult to handle the archaeological artefacts because we are not the specialists in that field, we anticipate that we can support them in tidying up the site plans and photos, and to wash up the pottery and so on.

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