Tag Archives: Archival

11/19/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 23)

Did someone say, MAMMOTH!?  Oh wait, that’s just me…ok, so maybe YOU too.  🙂

Even though I tend to work for HOURS on end in the lab, being all science-ee, I know that my successes are only in leaps & bounds from my perspective.  Sure, I know you’d hope as an archaeologist, I’d dig up a mammoth, find a lost city and discover the fountain of youth all in one week.  Sounds awesome to me too.  But in my REALISTIC life, things move a little slower…okay, so A LOT slower.  But you’re here to see updates & that’s what I’ve got for you!

Yes, it still looks painful, I know.  Imagine how I feel?!

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What I’ve worked on here looks a lot like the previous update, I know.  But if you’re super meticulous (like me), then you’ll see that we’ve cleaned the tusk a little bit more.  Cleaning it always is a bit of a crap shoot.  I’m stuck in the wonder of…Will it fall apart if I clean this more, or Will this look super awesome?!  It’s never an easy guessing game.  And truth be told, after today’s cleaning, it did a little of both.  But I’ll let you be the judge.  I’ll soon be using the Paraloid on this so as to freeze all the loose pieces into place.

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See how the tusk looks like rings of a tree?  In the same fashion, that’s how you can tell how old a mammoth is.  This tusk isn’t nearly so easy to read from this vantage point or the degradation.  But I can tell you that this was a juvenile, since the tusk’s circumference is smaller than all the mature mammoths I’ve studied.

Oh, btw, my favorite part about the photo below is that when I walked into the lab, SOME IDIOT WAS TOUCHING THE SANDBAGS!!!!  Of course I jumped all over him.  (Scared him a little too…that was funny!)  😉  I plan on putting this tusk in a flat housing that will contain all the mammoth dirt and tusk flakes that fall away.  The plastic drop cloth was good for when we were plastering, but it’s gotta go!  I will say that just to scootch the tusk around the table is a major event in its self since it is SOOOO heavy now.  I gauge about 80 pounds.  Once I was able to carry it across both arms.  Now?…Errrm….Not so much!

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I’m taking off for Thanksgiving, so I won’t be working on this until next week.  Forgive me?…

Again, I don’t want to expose much of this to the air without treating it more.  I use acrysol at 10% just like last week.

Tools used: 10% acrysol, sandbags, the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water, synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, 5cm arrow for size reference, and aspirator.

Time spent in the lab was about 4 hours.


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11/5/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 21)

Brought in some assistance from the Foothill Anthropology’s Osteology Club, as well as from my colleague, Dan Cearley to help with the prepping and plastering today.  Inside the cardboard box on the table, there sits the mammoth tusk just like you’ve seen in previous posts.  We are prepping to line the walls and the top (for now) surface of the tusk with tinfoil.  Creating a seal will keep the plaster from making contact with the tusk directly.

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I have anticipated this day for sooooooooooooooo long.  I never thought I’d have so many wonderful assistants to make this happen with me!

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Sure, we had the option to wear gloves, but WHY!?  Just wait till you scroll further & realize that it just LOOKS LIKE they’re wearing gloves!

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I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to be needing a weeee bit more than just that.  But this is a great start!

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Okay….One layer down….NEXT!…. (notice we laugh at the use of gloves now)

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I have a sneaking suspicion that this again…will still not be enough plaster….

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Sooooo…..Apparently playing in plaster brings back child-like joy.  Not a bad side-effect!

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But back to work!  (bwahahahahahaha!)

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And there was much rejoicing….

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Ta da!  Inception meets fruition!

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Successful day!  We’ll revisit this in a week, giving it time to set.

Tools used: 12 gallons of water, 30 pounds of plaster, the assistance of 3 students, 1 lab director, 1 lab researcher (me), 1 professor (aka, “adult supervision”…cough cough cough!), the mammoth tusk in its little plaster house, LOTS of tape (painters & duct), cardboard, plastic drop cloth, plastic containers and a good sense of humor.

Time in lab was about 3 hours.

*Pssssst!!!!….Next week, WE FLIP THE MAMMOTH!

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9/29/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 19)

Still playing catch-up in my posts, but we’re almost there!

I’m flattered as I walk into the lab & I see this!!!  That’s my stuff!  That’s my work!  That’s my…….wow.  I’m a little beside myself, it’s so awesome.

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I marveled at this for a while, but I had to get back to the tusk!!  The other fractured monstrosity under glass on the right is the mammoth rib that I worked on for a couple years.  That was a nightmare, but it gave me learning tools to get to where I am today on the tusk.

Since I am still cutting plaster back, I am once again using the acrysol/water solution as my water-based preservative since I can clean & preserve at the same time…with others in the room as well.  Since acrysol is a water-based archival element, it doesn’t have the same toxic chemicals that the Paraloid mix does.

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I’ll get back to the Paraloid, I swear!  Just not quite yet.

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I have started to seal the cracks and open spaces where there’s missing pieces.  It’s painful for me to see, but it’s something that kinda comes with the territory of working on something about 20-thousand years old!  Let’s see how you look!  😉

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Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes, plastic bags.  Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.  Hmmm…I suppose the heavy duty shears I use to cut back the plaster are tools too.  :p

7 hours in lab


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7/16/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 17)

Moving right along and making sure to continue a fast-forward into my work over these past few months, I give you the completely covered tusk with a 60/40 mixture (acetone/Paraloid)

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I have cut the plaster back on the far right side of the photo.  This allowed me better access to more of the tusk.  At the same time, I felt confident that the tusk was able to hold better with the pre-existing Paraloid compound that is already inside from a few months ago.  I can’t erase those cracks with my Paraloid, so if you’re waiting for that, I have say SORRY!  Best I can do is strengthen them by taking some of the Paraloid & use a syringe or pipette to drive it inside more.

The new 60/40 mixture seems to be doing much better!  Much fewer scary bubbles!  I’m breathing better now.  And I hope you are too.  🙂  Since I created the chemical make-up of this Paraloid, this has all been a series of experiments, where there’s always varying chances that something will work or fail.  I believe I’ll experience both in working on this.  But I just hope to do more of one than the other!!!!!

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Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes, plastic bags.

4 hours in lab


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4/12/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 16)

It’s a new day, with a new chemical compound that I’m still trying to better understand how to work with.  I’m trying to be a glass-half-full person for this project since I’m in such uncharted waters, I find it thrilling and terrifying at the same time.  As a refresher, I have a container of 100% acetone and another of a 50/50 compound of acetone and Paraloid.  I have since figured out that the 50/50 chemical mixture makes the Paraloid too thick and causes bubbles in the plastic sealant as it dries.

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I need to further analyze percentages what my mixture can be so as to be effective, but without disastrous effects one way or the other.

Since I brushed the acetone onto the surface yesterday, a majority of the major bubbles have broken down.  YAY!  It once again looks like the tusk I know & love.

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For next time, I now have my mixture set at 60% acetone and 40% Paraloid.  Since that’s currently going through the melting-down process, I’ll have more to update in the near future.

Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes, plastic bags.

3 hours in lab


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4/11/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 15)

Looks familiar & all right?…Just a little shinier?…

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But upon closer examination…WHAT ARE THESE BUBBLES DOING HERE???!!!  PLASTIC BUBBLES EVERYWHERE!  Okay, don’t panic…Let’s analyze this.  After all, you’re a scientist, Kanya!

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Okay, so now that I’m breathing a little easier…I analyze more of it….And remember in the last post when I said I got impatient and used Paraloid shortly after using Acrysol?….Yeah…..Well, that’s what that bubbly-milky-looking material is.  Not the end of the world, I know.  Just definitely not the visually-desired results.

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The Paraloid material is solidly holding the tusk!!


I’ve gone in with a natural hair brush & applied thin layers of acetone to thin out the Paraloid mixture I created in my first experiment with the percentages.  In theory, since the Paraloid is a mixture of acetone that was meant to be used as a liquification factor for the Paraloid beads, I figured it just made sense to be able to use the acetone to thin out the bubbles that were all over the tusk.  So far, so good!

Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes.

4 hours in the lab today.


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4/9/14 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 13)

Yup, more playing catch-up.  I admit, I was working on a lot, but not updating.  Bad Kanya!  I’ll make it up to you, I promise.  Just know that today was a day of magic!  Yes, this is my lab…no, I’m not making anything that will burn the place down.  But I did have to wear a sexy respirator & goggles & make sure that no one else was around.  Don’t want to burn my eyes, or skin, or anyone else!  Safety first!

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So, remember that teaser about me having to make archival liquid plastic?…Yup, here it is.  Everyone, welcome to Paraloid B-72.  By itself, they are these plastic beads that are no larger than 1x1cm each.  They are harmless enough until you add acetone.  You’ll see cheesecloth and mason jars in the photo too, which I’ll explain.

Mason Jar #1 has just acetone in it.  I am using it to thin out my solution if needed.


Mason Jar #2 has acetone in it, with the Paraloid B-72 beads wrapped in cheesecloth that is suspended just a little above the bottom of the glass jar.  These Paraloid B-72 beads will melt overnight & become a clear solution.  Crossing my fingers!!!!

Acetone #2

Weighed out acetone & Paraloid B-72 in math that’s going to change, so I’m not going into greater detail.

Tools used were glass beakers, scales, glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles and a lot of prayer.  I think the sandbags qualify as “tools”, right?…I hadn’t thought about them till now.

And STILL haven’t blown anything up!  (knock on wood)

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Posted by on 11/17/2014 in Mammoth


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