Stela of Penamun

Owner: The Brooklyn Museum
Object Date: 1334-1295 BCE, New Kingdom, late Dynasty XVIII
Provenance: Egyptian
Materials: Limestone
Dimensions: 65.9 x 45.9 x 7.9 cm

Description
The object is a carved limestone slab with small grains and pale beige-grey tonality. The sedimentary buildup of the layers of stone is parallel to the relief design. There are quartz veins throughout the stone but most notably along the proper right edge. The slab is rectangular with a rounded top. The design is carved in a low relief with the negative space left uncarved. The stela has three registers on the front separated by two parallel incised lines with a singular incised line around the perimeter of the design. Each register has a seated man and a woman on the left side with three to four figures lining up to offer gifts on the right side of each register. There are hieroglyphs on the top of each register. The accession number is painted on an isolating layer in red paint on the proper right side towards the bottom of the side of the slab if the object were to be oriented vertically.

The verso of the object has no design with visible chisel marks throughout. The veins are more pronounced through a slight protrusion. Another red accession number, “37.146L,” is painted on the back in red directly onto the stone.

Condition:
The object is in fair and stable condition and appears to be in the same condition from the 1992 report. The stone shows evidence of previous spalling and delamination due to the presence of salts (see Documentation/Testing), however it appears to be stable at this time. The surface of the stone has an overall pitting effect. There are significant losses to the front surface due to previous spalling particularly along the top of the stela and extending onto the surface design and causing a loss in the hieroglyphics, the head of the seated man, a portion of the top of the head of the woman on the far left, and the entire head of the young boy on the far right. The previous spalling is also quite visible along the bottom front edge particularly in the two corners. Consolidation and fills from a treatment in 1992 are visible and currently stable (see previous treatment). There are smaller chips along the front edges. There there is also a large gouge on the top of the front of the stela within the spalling area.

On the top register there is a chip on the face of the second figure from the right, and there is a long spalling loss that extends from the hip on the woman on the far left through the rear of the seated man on the left. There is a chip on the carved vessels to the left of the third figure from the right, and there are two holes that may be from a drill on the shoulder of the seated man on the left and above the hand of the woman behind him. There is a black accretion on and nearby the vessel held in the left hand by the third figure from the right.

In the middle register there is a large chisel gouge between the two figures closest to the right. There is a reddish colored stain that has the appearance of iron oxide on the left side within the spalling layers and on top of the surface nearby. The stone that is stained the red color is particularly powdery and a large section of the area has a springing motion when lightly touched with a bamboo wooden skewer, which was not noted in previous reports, but is likely not new, since there was mention that the reddish colored areas were powdery. There is a scratch or abrasion mark of parallel lines on the proper left side near the chisel gouge that extends through the entire height of the register.

On the bottom register, a significant section of the proper left and right corners are gone, and the feet of the seated figures are missing. A piece of the stone in this area and the chair of the seated woman have been reattached and a consolidant is used along its bottom edge (see previous treatment). There are two large boring holes (possibly from a drill) and associated surface loss in between the legs and on the kilt of the third figure from the right. There are some small chips on the left arm and wrist of the seated man. Along the knees of the second figure to the left there is a black spotty stain.

The bottom edge has a rough texture that may be a result of damage from previous salt efflorescence. On the top and bottom edge there is a dark black/brown stain particularly on the areas that are most proud of the surface. These stains could possibly be from a previous mount as noted in the 1992 report.  

There is no previous documentation recorded for the back of the object. The undecorated back of the stela has circular indentations with crumbled stone consolidated inside on the center and top facing left. There are two channels cut into the bottom left facing corner that extend slightly towards the center of surface. The stone has an overall glossy plastic look likely from the PVA coating in the 1938 treatment. There is a very large chip alongside the vein on the right side. Along the top of the chip is an iron-oxide-colored staining. There are actively flaking areas and three areas of loss in the bottom half towards the left side. The losses could be a result of salts in the stone and the impermeability of the consolidant coating the surface, as the losses reveal a bright white stone layer beneath and the width of the loss shares the same tonality of the coated stone. Under ultraviolet examination (see Documentation/Testing), the flaking areas that expose the white stone are highly absorbent, which suggests that the coating may not penetrate too deeply into the stone. The surface has an overall pebbly surface similar to that seen on the bottom edge. There are areas of black staining on proud portions of the stone that possibly rubbed off from another surface. Some small remnants of paper are found adhered to the surface that may have once served as a facing.

When examining the object under a stereomicroscope, small fibers were found throughout the surface of the stone, possibly from the paper boundary underneath the poultice in the 1993 treatment. The surface of the stone appeared relatively stable and consolidated except for the areas noted in the condition diagram.

Historical Context
The object dates from the late Dynasty XVIII, circa 1334-1295 BCE from Saqqara. It is a funerary stela of the man of Penamun and his wife Mutemwiya (TMS Notes). The upper register depicts Penamun, his wife, and one of their sons offering gifts to the god Osiris and the goddess Isis. This register is representative of the realm of the netherworld. The middle register shows Penamun and his wife sitting before a table of offerings from a lector priest, a professional singer in mourning, and one of their daughters. This register represents the realm of the tomb. The bottom register depisters another man and his wife receiving offerings from their children. This register represents the realm of the living (TMS Notes).

Documentation/Testing
Microchemical spot tests:
The object was tested for chlorides, nitrates, and sulfates with Whatman’s filter paper soaked in deionized water on the right of the bottom edge until it was dry (about an hour). The object tested positive for chlorides and negative for nitrates and sulfates. There is little confidence in the results for sulfates since the test result with known gypsum did not yield a positive result even when reducing the reagents, and the particular test has been known to require large quantities of sulfates. It is recommended to retry the sulfate test in the future with new reagents (Odegaard, Carroll, Zimmt, Material Characterization Tests for Objects of Art and Archaeology p. 104, 124,108).

UV on the front:
There is a slight orange tonality overall, possibly an old shellac. There is a dot that fluoreseces bright orange on the middle register on the left underarm of the seated man. On the bottom right edge of the middle register there is a large area of speckled yellow fluorescence. The inpainting on the consolidation on the bottom edge are strongly absorbent.

UV on the back:
There is an overall white/pale blue fluorescence consistent with the fluorescence of modern synthetic resin and is more absorbent towards the edges. The areas where the surface has chipped are very absorbent suggesting that the consolidant may not penetrate deeply into the stone. The paper fragments from a possible facing fluoresce a bright white.

Reduction of PVA coating on the back:
The following methods were tested for the removal or reduction of the thick PVA coating:

  • Methanol with a cotton swab: the swab appears to be lifting up coating and when examined in UV it appears to have left behind a coating with an orange fluorescence consistent with that of shellac
  • Ethanol with a cotton swab: the swab appears to be lifting up coating and when examined in UV it appears to have left behind a coating with an orange fluorescence consistent with that of shellac
  • Isopropanol with a cotton swab: the coating was only slightly dissolved and when examined under UV it fluoresced a milky white color consistent with the PVA
  • 9:1 petroleum benzine:ethanol on a cotton swab: the coating did not appear to dissolve and when examined under UV it fluoresced a milky white color consistent with the PVA
  • Shell Sol 71 (odorless mineral spirit) on a cotton swab: the coating did not appear to dissolve and when examined under UV it fluoresced a milky white color consistent with the PVA
  • Deionized water on a cotton swab: the coating did not appear to dissolve in visible and when examined under UV it fluoresced a milky white color consistent with the PVA with a slight orange tone
  • 1:1 deioinized water:ethanol on a cotton swab: appeared to reduce coating somewhat, and when examined in UV it fluoresced a milky white with a slight orange tonality.
  • 1:1 deioinized water:ethanol with a cotton poultice (one hour): did not appear to reduce the coating very much in visible light, but there was a slight orange hue when examined under UV.
  • Ethanol in a cotton poultice within a mylar chamber (one hour): extremely good results. It appears to have removed all of the coatings, especially when examined under UV as it was very absorbent. The surface was very powdery when examined under a stereomicroscope and prodded with a bamboo skewer.
  • Acetone on a cotton swab: appeared to be removing the coating right away and worked much too quickly to control as opposed to  ethanol. When examined under UV it was very absorbent, however, there was some orange tonality visible. The surface was very powdery when examined under a stereomicroscope and prodded with a bamboo skewer.
  • 2% pemulen (poly acrylic acid) gel in deionized water with ethanol (1:1) with benzyl alcohol pH7 (applied for 5 minutes then removed): appeared to work very well, however, it left behind a dark gummy residue in areas and the pH may have been a bit too low for the stone. When examined under UV there was an orange fluorescence.
  • 2% pemulen gel tr2 with acetone:ethanol (2:1) at pH 8 with TEA (applied for 5 minutes then removed: the results were poor and it was difficult to remove the gel. When examined with UV there was a slight orange hue to the milky white fluorescence.
  • Saugwunder suction block (polyvinyl alcohol sponge) soaked with ethanol: this method was very effective but did not have a great adhesion to the entire surface of the stone. It seemed to have removed all of the coatings, especially when examined under UV as it was very absorbent. The surface was very powdery when examined under a stereomicroscope and prodded with a bamboo skewer.
  • Ethanol in a cotton poultice on top of RK2 paper (western-made Japanese tissue paper) within a mylar chamber (one hour): extremely good results. It appears to have removed all of the coatings, especially when examined under UV as it was very absorbent. The surface was very powdery when examined under a stereomicroscope and prodded with a bamboo skewer.
  • Toluene with cotton swab: appeared to be working right away. When examined under UV it was very absorbent, however, there was a slight orange tonality.
  • N-methyl 2 pyrrolidinone: Appeared to be working right away. When examined under UV there was an orange fluorescence.
  • Deionized water and ethanol (1:1) in a cotton poultice on top of RK2 paper (western-made Japanese tissue paper) within a mylar chamber (one hour): It appeared to be working right away and when examining under UV it was slightly absorbent with an orange tonality.
  • A100: appeared to be working and when examining under UV it was slightly absorbent with an orange tonality.
  • 5% Klucel G (hydroxyproprylcellulose) in ethanol for five minutes: worked very well and when examined under UV there was a light orange tonality to the milky white fluorescence. It left behind some residue which had a consolidation effect.
  • 5% Klucel G in ethanol for ten minutes: was not as effective as the shorter dwelling time as it made it harder to remove and when examined under UV there was a light orange tonality to the milky white fluorescence. It left behind some residue which had a consolidation effect.
  • Benzyl alcohol with cotton swab: appeared to be working well and when examined under UV there was a slight absorbent with an orange tonality.
  • Toluene with cotton poultice (1 hour): appeared to be working well and when examined under UV there was a slight absorbent with an orange tonality.
  • Er:YAG laser: An attempt to reduce the PVA using an Er:YAG laser was also done (205 us, 10 Hz). The object was first wet with isopropanol, the laser was administered, and then the stone was wiped with isopropanol. The PVA was reduced using this method and the stone absorbed UV radiation in the areas that were tested. It was difficult to determine exactly where the laser had cleaned using this method.
  • Er:YAG:  Laser cleaning was performed using a Compact Phoenix™ Laser System, capable of delivering pulse energies of up to 250 mJ, one, two, or three pulses per firing, and repetition rates from 1Hz – 20 Hz, depending on the number of pulses. The erbium yttrium aluminum garnet (Er:YAG ) laser handpiece contains a compact, passively Q-Switched laser emitting at 2940 nm and a laser diode which delivers a red pointing beam. Both the Er:YAG rod and flashlamp are water cooled.

1993:
Chloride tests were completed using acidified silver nitrate with results ranging from positive to strongly positive.

Past Treatment
1938:
A loss on the lower left area was cemented in place with cellulose acetate in acetone. It was immersed in baths of water to remove chlorides. The upper front, sides and reverse were treated with PVA in acetone.

1992:
The surface coating was reduced with ethanol on cotton. Weak areas were consolidated in dilute solution of B-72 in toluene.  Grey paint residues were softened with xylene and removed mechanically. A poultice of attapulgite and xylene on top of wet strength tissue was used to reduce the PVA on the front and sides. The areas of spalling stone weakened from the loss of PVA were re-consolidated using a solution of B-72 in toluene. Some fills on the bottom of the stone were created using B-72 in xylene bulked with glass microballons and paper pulp and toned with acrylics.

Before and After Treatment Photographs

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