Artifacts Treatment and Laboratories Department

Department offices:  Ha-Marpeh st. 5, Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem


Department director: Yotam Asscher


Tel.: 02-5892280


Administrative assistant: Zehavit Shmuel


Tel: 02-5892281


Logistics: Aron Sriker


Tel: 02-5892204




The Artifact Treatment and Laboratories Department was established with the creation of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 1990, in recognition of the objects’ cultural importance in understanding the past and their contribution to the archaeological, historical and cultural research of the country and the region. The department is responsible for the storage of finds coming from excavations and the technical processing of all moveable artifacts.
The department includes the transit storerooms, photographic archives, technical drawing unit and the National Laboratory for Digital Documentation. Together, these units support and assist in the publication of the excavation reports.
The department is responsible for the conservation, treatment and proper storage of all finds exposed in the excavations, surveys and other activities of the IAA, and also provides conservation services to external groups conducting archaeological excavations in Israel.
In order to provide appropriate care for the diverse artifacts, the department operates special conservation laboratories based on the materials from which the objects are made. These include laboratories for the conservation of pottery, metallic implements and objects, glassware, stone vessels and objects, and organic materials.
The department is responsible for establishing the conservation standards for the treatment of small finds, the manner of storing the finds and their packaging for displays and exhibitions in the country and abroad, and determining criteria for their exhibition.
The department’s conservators have many years of experience and come to the field with a background in chemistry, art and archaeology. They studied in their particular areas of expertise and from time to time participate in continuing education programs and unique conservation workshops in Israel and overseas.
The department operates in strict accordance with the principles of conservation and restoration accepted worldwide. Preventive conservation that emphasizes proper storage and controlled conditions is known to be of great significance in contributing to the stability of the artifacts and reducing the causes of deterioration.

Units and laboratories of the department:


Transit Storerooms

Storerooms director: Rebecca Cohen-Amin


tel.: 02-5892207



The transit storerooms contain artifacts from excavations, surveys, antiquities inspections and other activities of the IAA, from the moment of their discovery in the field until the completion of their technical and scientific treatment with the scientific publication. 
The transit storerooms are responsible for receiving and storing all of the finds arriving from the excavations, including transferring the material between the different laboratories and returning it to the transit storerooms.
The transit storerooms, laboratories and offices of the senior archaeologists at the IAA are all in one building in keeping with the approach of integrating the archaeologist’s work and that of the laboratories and artifact storage while preparing the material for publication. The artifacts remain in the transit storerooms until the excavator has completed writing the final publication of his excavation. Only then are the excavation finds transferred to their final storage in the National Treasures Storerooms.





Photography Unit

Unit director: Dafna Gazit

Tel: 02-5892231


Photographer: Assaf Peretz




The work in the photography unit is divided in two: the excavation photography in the field and the photographing of artifacts in the studio. The documenting of excavations is carried out at the request of the excavators, and occasionally objects on display in museums are also photographed. Upon completion of the conservation process in the laboratories the finds are photographed in the studio for documentation and publication purposes. When necessary the find is also photographed prior to and during treatment as part of maintaining a record of the conservation process. 
The photography is only digital. The pictures are processed on a computer and transferred to the IAA photographic archives for storage. Upon request, older non-digital photos are scanned, processed, and transferred to the photographic archives. The IAA excavators and curators can access their pictures through the IAA computer system.



Technical Drawing Unit

 Unit director: Carmen Hersch


Tel: 02-5892229



Upon completion of the conservation process and based on the excavator’s selection, the finds are drawn prior to publication. The purpose of the drawing is to document the object as is customary in IAA publications and in keeping with the conventions practiced by the archaeological community. The drawing is done in different agreed upon scales.
All of the artifacts, with the exception of flint tools, are drawn digitally on a screen, directly on the computer. The flint tools are still drawn by hand. The object is first sketched in pencil. After the excavator and the artist have examined the drawing it is transferred to ink. The drawings are arranged in plates prior to publication.



National Laboratory for Digital Documentation

Laboratory director: To Be Annonced


Laura A. Peri


Tel: 02-5892229



This laboratory was established in the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2013 and is the result of a joint initiative of the IAA, Hebrew University and Weizmann Institute of Science.
The work of the laboratory involves utilizing mathematical methods and computer applications that were developed at the Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute for the sake of archaeological research and for the documentation and digital preservation of the objects. The laboratory is equipped with modern, extremely precise three-dimensional scanners that provide digital models of a variety of archaeological finds.
The laboratory work consists mainly of documenting potsherds. In addition to these the laboratory also documents stone objects, flint tools and special finds such as amulets, coins, seals, inscriptions, ostraca, etc.

The documenting process of pottery includes the following stages: scanning; the automatic and precise calculation of the correct positioning of the vessels; quality control of the acquired positioning and calculation of a representative cross-section profile; the creation of a final drawing of publication quality that conforms to agreed archaeological documentation conventions and includes within it views of the three-dimensional model. These drawings, after completion of all stages of the process, are produced rapidly, accurately, and skillfully in a manner that is largely consistent with traditional manual methods.

All of the files are stored in a digital database open to the various researchers that is also able to conduct quick searches and advanced queries. Among other things, a search of parallel pottery forms can be made using advanced methods of comparison based on mathematical representations of the drawing’s profile.



Pottery Restoration Unit (This unit includes four laboratories for pottery conservation)

Unit director: Josef Bukengoltz


Tel: 02-5892223



Pottery vessels are the most common finds in excavations. The reason for this is that the ceramic material from which they are made is more resistant to environmental conditions, and therefore the processes of deterioration have less effect on the sherds than on other materials.
The pottery conservation laboratories handle all of the ceramics that are found in the IAA excavations. These include jars, bowls, cups, chalices and incense-burners, ossuaries, statues, cultic objects, etc.
The sherds are washed in the field, depending on their physical condition. A friable artifact or a find with paint or epigraphic symbols on it receives individual conservation treatment. The treatment in the laboratory involves spreading out the sherds, constructing the vessels and completing any lacunae (missing sherds) with colored plaster.

A digital documentation of the treatment of the different vessels and objects is made during the course of the conservation work. In addition, in selected instances, the archaeologists and conservationists collaborate, primarily in the study of technological aspects.



 Metallurgy Laboratory

Unit manager: Helena Kupershmidt


Tel: 02-5892232


The metallurgy laboratory treats all metallic objects discovered in IAA excavations. These objects include coins, coin hoards, tools, weapons, figurines, jewelry and cultic vessels. The objects are produced from a variety of raw materials: bronze, iron, copper, lead, silver and gold. Because of their sensitivity to moisture and salts present in the earth and oxygen in the air, the objects were subjected to processes of deterioration that occasionally caused them extensive damage.

The treatment in the laboratory includes removing the corrosive layer by mechanical means, and if also necessary, by means of delicate chemical substances; coating the surface of the object with a protective polymer, and sometimes gluing and restoring special vessels that were already broken in antiquity.

A digital documentation of the treatment of the various vessels and objects is made during the course of the conservation work. In selected instances, the archaeologists and conservationists also collaborate in studying aspects of material science and technology.

In the National Treasures Department, the objects are kept in a climate-controlled storeroom where they are protected and maintained under the best possible conditions so as to prevent any further deterioration in their state of preservation.



Glass Conservation Laboratory

Unit Director: Adrienne Ganor


Tel: 02-5892224



All of the glass artifacts discovered in IAA excavations are treated in the glass conservation laboratory. These finds include tableware, cosmetic containers, lamps, window panes, beads and jewelry.
Since the glass artifacts are extremely fragile and delicate, they are generally cleaned in the laboratory, using no liquids. Each item receives the appropriate treatment according to its state of preservation. Special pieces of glassware that were broken in antiquity are glued and restored in the laboratory and presented in their entirety, often times having been completed using modern materials.

A digital documentation of the treatment of the various vessels and objects is made during the course of the conservation work. In addition, in selected instances, the archaeologists and conservationists collaborate, mainly in the study of technological aspects.



Organic Materials Conservation Laboratory

Unit Director:Ilan Naor


Tel: 02-5892222



The organic finds exposed in IAA excavations are treated in the organic materials conservation laboratory. These objects are very sensitive to environmental conditions and generally survive only in especially dry regions, such as the Judean Desert and the ?Arava. Due to their sensitivity, they are brought to the laboratory immediately upon exposure. The types of organic items that are uncovered in excavations include silk, cotton, line and wool fabrics, cordage made of vegetation, straw baskets and mats, bone implements, leather and wooden objects. 
Usually the objects are cleaned manually with a scalpel and various brushes under a microscope, using no liquids. The fabrics are straightened by means of a cold humidifier, and are cleaned with mild solvents when necessary.

A digital documentation of the treatment of the various objects is made during the course of the conservation work. In selected instances, the archaeologists and conservationists collaborate, mainly in the study of technological aspects.

Upon completion of the conservation process the objects are kept in appropriate packaging material in a climate-controlled storeroom, where they are protected and maintained under the best possible conditions so as to prevent any deterioration in their state of preservation.



Stone Conservation Laboratory

Unit Director: To Be Annonced


The stone conservation laboratory treats all moveable stone objects discovered in IAA excavations. These objects include fragments of architectural elements, statues, ossuaries, millstones and grinding stones, potter’s wheels, various containers such as fenestrated bowls, measuring vessels, kraters and bowls, and tools such as knives, axes, chisels, scrapers, arrowheads and sickle blades.
The items are made of different kinds of stone, of hard stones such as basalt, flint and marble and soft stones such as kurkar and limestone. The treatment includes cleaning, restoration and reconstruction. Remains of paint, epigraphic remains, engravings and decorations are treated individually. 

A digital documentation of the treatment of the various vessels and objects is made during the course of the conservation work. In selected instances, the archaeologists and conservationists collaborate mainly in the study of technological aspects


Analytical Laboratory

Unit Director: Yotam Asscher


Tel: 02-5892235


Yonah Maor


Tel: 02-5892235


Ilana Peters


Tel: 02-5892218

Principles and Work Processes


The guiding principles behind the conservation work focus on preparing the objects for appropriate scientific publication and maintaining the long-term stability of the national treasures for future generations. To this end, each item is treated individually, with emphasis being placed on the reversibility of the conservation processes.

The process of treating the objects consists of three stages:

Restoration – a process whereby the fragments of the vessel or object are connected and the item is reconstructed.

Restoration and filling lacunae – completing the object’s missing parts in order to strengthen it and render it the appearance of being whole. Usually the only parts that are restored are those that are definitely known how they appeared and where they were located. 

Conservation – a process whereby the physical and chemical conditions of the objects are treated so as to stop the process of deterioration. This can be achieved by the use of reinforcing substances and by storage in controlled environmental conditions.

Occasionally the process begins in the field during the excavation. In such instances the aim is to stabilize the artifact before removing it from the ground, in a condition that will allow further treatment in the laboratories.

As mentioned above, most of the cleaning, gluing and reinforcing materials we work with are reversible – that is to say they can be removed or the gluing can be dismantled. This is an important rule designed to protect the object from overly aggressive treatment.

The treatments and work processes are all photographed and documented in writing, after which the information is added to the object’s database in the National Treasures.