A review of conservation treatments of waterlogged basketry from the northwest coast of North America

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Senge, Dana K.; Carrlee, Ellen;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 58, Number 4, p.285-296 (2013)


Basketry artifacts fabricated from spruce and cedar limb wood and root and the inner bark of yellow and western red cedar have been found in water-saturated archaeological sites in the Pacific Northwest since the mid-twentieth century. These artifacts range in age from a few centuries to more than 5000 years old. While these materials retain their overall physical structure due to burial in an anoxic environment they are degraded on the cellular level. Experiments and treatments performed by archaeologists and conservators over the past 50 years have attempted to stabilize these degraded structures and minimize splitting, crumbing, and distortion of the woven structures as they dried. Many of these tests and treatments are published in out-of-print conference proceedings or remain unpublished in conservation lab records. This review of tests and treatments as well as a current condition assessment of several collections brings this information together for the first time and allows conservators and archaeologists specializing in these treatments to see the broader arch of success and failure of the preservation of waterlogged basketry materials.