Conservation of Waterlogged Wood—Past, Present and Future Perspectives

Broda, M., Hill, C.A.S. (2021). Conservation of Waterlogged Wood—Past, Present and Future Perspectives. Forests 12(9), 1193.

This paper reviews the degradation, preservation and conservation of waterlogged archaeological wood. Degradation due to bacteria in anoxic and soft-rot fungi and bacteria in oxic waterlogged conditions is discussed with consideration of the effect on the chemical composition of wood, as well as the deposition of sulphur and iron within the structure. The effects on physical properties are also considered. The paper then discusses the role of consolidants in preserving waterlogged archaeological wood after it is excavated as well as issues to be considered when reburial is used as a means of preservation. The use of alum and polyethylene glycol (PEG) as consolidants is presented along with various case studies with particular emphasis on marine artefacts. The properties of consolidated wood are examined, especially with respect to the degradation of the wood post-conservation. Different consolidants are reviewed along with their use and properties. The merits and risks of reburial and in situ preservation are considered as an alternative to conservation.

Keywords: waterlogged wood, consolidation, archaeological wood, sorption, degradation, drying, wood conservation, PEG, alum, reburial, in situ preservation