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Application of aqueous polymers on earthen substrates

Lingle, Ashley Morgan 2019. Application of aqueous polymers on earthen substrates. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Effective preservation of earthen architecture has eluded researchers for decades. While strides have been made in understanding the drivers of degradation and monitoring their effects, the impact of consolidation is still poorly understood. As a result, consolidation interventions at archaeological earthen sites are driven by empirical practice, with limited opportunities for quantitively evaluating treatment outcomes. The research presented in this PhD study contributes to addressing this gap in sector practice and understanding. A methodology is tested and used to examine the impact of consolidation on an earthen substrate through the application of a synthetic carbon-based polymer. For this research, Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Microspectroscopy is used to determine the depth of penetration of polymers applied to the surface of archaeological mudbrick and laboratory analogues. Polymer impact on compressive strength of analogues is measured with a Universal Testing Machine (UTM). Earthen architectural samples for this study were sourced from the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük. This integrated approach of combining analysis of archaeological and analogous samples serves to verify the methodology and demonstrate its applicability to evaluation of other consolidants for earthen materials. Results show that the perception of consolidation resulting from treatments involving surface application of polymers to earthen architecture at Çatalhöyük is erroneous. A polymer skin has formed which offers no improvement in the mechanical properties of this structural material, as confirmed by UTM testing of the laboratory analogues. These findings challenge conservators to re-evaluate their perception of treatments and examine the vocabulary of their practice. The case for further work in this area is clear and an investigative approach is proposed. This research highlights the need for evidence-based decision-making in conservation practice and discusses the difficulties in achieving this in the field. The outcomes of this work have already made an impact on conservation practice. At Çatalhöyük, treatments for the earthen structures have been revised in the light of the findings reported here. Improved systems for monitoring of treatment effects and long-term stability have been developed. Importantly, conservators now understand the effect that decades of polymer application at the site has had on the structure and mechanical properties of the architecture. This insight underpins treatment strategies in the present and allows evidence-based planning for the future survival of the UNESCO site.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 May 2020
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2023 02:06

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