Protocols and Guidelines

The following protocols and guidelines have been developed from papers and discussions at the Ivory Workshops. Fifteen short guides to researching ivories are currently in the final stages of preparation by various core members of the research cluster. As these are completed they will be uploaded to the Ebur website and will be accessible as .pdf files.

Researching ivories

Constructing object biographies provides a framework for understanding the diverse 'lifeways' of objects and their meaning.

Artefact Biographies: implications for the curation of archaeological ivories, by Steve Ashby, is aimed at curators, conservators and custodians of ivory collections. It discusses the development of the concept of 'object biography', the range of analytical techniques and procedures available for gaining information relating to the phases of an object's life and the implications this approach to ivory research has for the curation of ivory objects.

Destructive sampling

Following debates on the subject of destructive analysis, a number of problems and inconsistencies of approach were identified. and it was felt that some written guidance on how to manage applications for destructive analysis would be useful for researchers, conservators, and curators alike.  The following documents were prepared by Tracey Seddon in consultation with Steve Ashby, and incorporate contributions from Julie Eklund and Joanna Ostapkowicz. The these guidelines are based on research into existing protocols used by museums in the UK and into perceived needs and areas for focus. As such, they should not be seen as the final word on the matter, but should serve as a useful starting point for ongoing discussion towards the development of protocols and guidance notes for the treatment of applications for destructive analyses of ivories held in museums and similar institutions.

Sampling guidelines for researchers

Sampling guidelines for museums

Send your comments on these guidelines to Steve Ashby or Tracey Seddon

Analytical techniques

A range of destructive and non-destructive techniques have been used in the analysis of ivories to determine identification, date and provenance. Where applicable, non-destructive techniques may seem preferable to approaches that require the removal of a sample, no matter how small, but they may not produce such useful or meaningful results as more invasive techniques. The loss caused by the controlled removal of a few milligrams of sample also needs to be balanced against the risks involved in removing a whole object to an analytical facility.

The term ‘non-destructive’ is often used to mean that the object is not sampled, but this does not mean that, on a microscopic level at least, material is not being removed from an object during analysis. The bombardment of the ivory with laser light, X-rays or streams of charged particles can also transfer intense doses of energy into the area being analysed, causing localised heating.  In inexperienced hands this can produce visible damage . More subtle changes in the longer term might be more difficult to attribute to a particular procedure.

A series of short guidelines have been commissioned to help inform conservators, curators and researchers about the uses and limitations of destructive and non-destructive analytical techniques and these will be added to this page as they become available.

Raman Spectroscopy of Ancient and Modern Ivories: Nondestructive Analytical Interrogation – An Appreciation.
Howell G.M. Edwards

Sampling of Ivory for Molecular Analysis: An outline of sampling approaches, analytical techniques, sample sizes and the information that can be obtained.
Ashley Coutu, Matthew Collins and Julia Lee-Thorp