Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Leather, Archaeological: Conservation and Preservation

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_483


People’s first efforts to collect and prepare animal hides to use for clothing and tools included their first efforts for preserving organic material culture. Vegetable materials, tannins from tree bark, and even the brains of the slaughtered animal were effectively used to prepare hides for use. Leather artifacts excavated from land and dry cave sites and underwater excavations offer special challenges for conservation, based on complex environmentally driven chemical interactions and processes of biological and microbial deterioration. In the late 1980s, the addition of material science studies directed at the conservation of organic materials is contributing new insights and avenues for research in the field of leather artifact conservation. This entry discusses major concerns, issues, and avenues for research and advancement in scientific studies.


Many definitions describing the natures of conservation and preservation exist. For general discussion, we...

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  1. Hamilton, D.L. 1996. Basic methods of conserving underwater archaeological material culture. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Defense, Legacy Resource Management Program.Google Scholar
  2. Smith, C. W. & D. L. Hamilton. 1998. Conservation of waterlogged leather using polymers(Archaeological Preservation Research Laboratory (APRL) Report 4). Texas: Texas A&M University, College Station. Available at: http://nautarch.tamu.edu/class/anth605/605syl.htm.

Further Reading

  1. Cameron, E. J. Spriggs & B. Wills. 2006. The conservation of archaeological leather, in M. Kite & R. Thompson Conservation of leather and related materials: 244–63. Jordon Hill, Oxford: Elsevier Lincare House.Google Scholar
  2. Hamilton, D.L. & W. Smith. 2011. Archaeological conservation, in A. Catsambis, B. Ford & D. L. Hamilton (ed.) Oxford handbook of maritime archaeology: 286-304. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Klosowski, J. M., C. W. Smith & D. L. Hamilton. 1998. A method of conserving waterlogged materials. United States Patent Office, patent 5,789,087, issued August 4.Google Scholar
  4. Plenderleith, H. & A. Werner.1971.The conservation of antiquities and works of art, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Smith, C. W. 1984. The re-treatment of two PEG-treated sabots. Proceedings of the 7th ICOM - CC Working Group on Wet Organic Archaeological Materials Conference, Grenoble, France, 7: 155-59.Google Scholar
  6. - 2003. Archaeological conservation using polymers. College Station (TX): Texas A&M University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Waterer, J. W.1972. A guide to the conservation and restoration of objects made wholly or in part of leather. New York City: Drake Publishers Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA