Scanning electron microscope hypsometry as a tool for evaluating the impact of surface treatments: A case study on sub-fossil bone

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Allington-Jones, Lu; Bernucci, Arianna;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 60, Number 1, p.55-64 (2015)


Plaster of Paris field jackets are commonly employed for lifting fragile archeological and paleontological material during excavation. When the plaster has been applied directly to the object surface its removal poses a severe risk of damage and loss. This study documents the development of an experimental method to test the suitability of various techniques for removing plaster of Paris from sub-fossil bone. The use of digital microscopic elevation models, already in use in other disciplines, was tested as a method for quantifying surface loss resulting from conservation treatments. The study concludes that citric acid is not suitable for use in close proximity to sub-fossil bone. Air abrasion and laser ablation proved extremely damaging, but ultrasonic cleaning caused no detectable damage. This study has relevance to the removal of plaster of Paris from other materials, such as carbonaceous statuary. The analytical technique itself has a far wider application and is recommended for evaluation of all surface treatments that have the potential to cause loss on a microscopic scale.