New Consolidants for the Conservation of Archeological Wood

  • Zarah Walsh-KorbEmail author
  • Emma-Rose Janeček
  • Mark Jones
  • Luc Averous
  • Oren A. Scherman
Part of the Cultural Heritage Science book series (CUHESC)


The preservation of cultural heritage is of great importance worldwide and, as such, has been the focus of an increasing number of research projects in recent years. In spite of considerable efforts around the world, significant problems have arisen with the conservation of many shipwrecks. The most common issues facing conservators are structural instability upon drying and biological degradation stemming from the aquatic flora and fauna active around the excavation site. However, many important artefacts – such as the sixteenth century warship Mary Rose – also suffer from metal ion saturation from degraded bolts and fittings. In most cases Fe3+ is the greatest problem, which catalyses the production of sulfuric and oxalic acid in the waterlogged timbers, adding chemical degradation to the potential conservation issues. Moreover, the Fe3+ also feeds biological degradation by providing bacteria with an iron source for sustained growth. As such, multi-functional consolidants are greatly needed to tackle not only the many-pronged conservation issues already visible, but also to prevent others from evolving over time. This paper discusses the recent successes in the development of such materials from sustainable, bio-based sources and some potential areas for the future development of these tools.


Waterlogged archaeological wood Mary rose Poly(ethylene glycol) Bio-based polymers Supramolecular materials Conservation 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement n. PCOFUND-GA-2013-609102, through the PRESTIGE programme coordinated by Campus France, awarded to ZWK (PRESTIGE-2016-2-0008). ZWK acknowledges the help of Drs J.T. Hodgkinson, M. Welch, J. Sedlmair, A. Koutsioubas, and Profs. D.R. Spring, C.J. Hirschmugl, C. Toprakcioglu, A. Dent and J.R. Nitschke in the characterisation and development of these materials. ZWK and OAS acknowledge financial support from the Mary Rose Trust, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) UK and the European Research Council (ERC) (Starting Investigator Award No. 240619, ASPiRe). OAS also acknowledges the Walters-Kundert Charitable Trust for a Next Generation Fellowship. ERJ thanks the EPSRC for a doctoral training grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zarah Walsh-Korb
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Emma-Rose Janeček
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mark Jones
    • 4
  • Luc Averous
    • 1
  • Oren A. Scherman
    • 2
  1. 1.BioTeam, ECPM/ICPEES, UMR CNRS 7515Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis, Department of ChemistryUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Institute of Materials, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.The Mary Rose TrustPortsmouthUK

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