Characterization of archaeological waterlogged wooden objects exposed on the hyper-saline Dead Sea shore

Asaf Oron, Nili Liphschitz, Benjamin W. Held, Ehud Galili, Micha Klein, Raphael Linker, Robert A. Blanchette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Archaeological waterlogged wood objects exposed on the Dead Sea shore exhibit little visual evidence of degradation when first exposed, and after prolonged exposure and dehydration. An investigation on the state of preservation of this material was recognised as a necessary step towards its long-term conservation. Micromorphological observations, ATR FTIR, ash content, and physical tests showed that deterioration is limited and is mostly non-biological in nature. Natural bulking and impregnation with lake minerals and salts appear to play a significant role in the physical stability of these woods when dried, and apparently inhibit microbial colonization and subsequent degradation. In contrast, archaeological wood examined from a typical Mediterranean marine environment showed advanced stages of degradation by bacteria, with the wood structure extensively compromised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-86
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by a Regional Research Grant of the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (grant no. 3-8422 ), and by a PhD scholarship from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa. Funding for fieldwork has been generously provided over the years by the RPM Nautical Foundation , the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University , the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center . Samples from the Dead Sea were kindly collected during scuba diving by Danny Ionescu and Stefan Häusler, and from the Tantura F shipwreck by Yaacov Kahanov and Ofra Barkai. The authors also acknowledge Roee Shafir for laboratory assistance, Adi Eliyahu and Ulrike Rothenhäusler for preliminary analyses and Amit Gross for the ash content analyses. The authors thank Gideon Hadas co director of the Dead Sea Coastal Survey project, Naama Sukenik and the Israel Antiquities Authority for sampling permission and the survey permits, Nurgül Külah for library assistance and Baruch Rozen for his advice and invaluable comments. Finally thanks are due to the two reviewers, whose comments have undoubtedly improved this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Ancient driftwood
  • Conservation
  • Dead Sea
  • Hyper-saline environments
  • Maritime activity
  • Waterlogged wood
  • Wood deterioration


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