Grouting for Caesar

Saving the Stones utilizes the old city of Akko as a living laboratory for conservation, providing a unique place where archaeologists, conservators, architects, and others interested in preservation can be trained in practical conservation and learn to work with contemporary and descendant communities. But the program doesn’t just limit itself to Akko. In a country full of unique and exciting conservation challenges, there are many options to choose from. Saving the Stones participant Amy L. Pfeister (Spring 2012) chose to work on one of Israel’s monumental sites, the ancient Herodian city of Caesarea. Caesarea, located approximately halfway between the contemporary Israeli cities of Netanya and Haifa, is home to one of the largest and most monumental ports of the ancient Mediterranean. Because of the immense size and architecture of Caesarea and its location on the Mediterranean, there are several opportunities for different aspects of conservation to be researched, studied, and implemented.

Pfeister explored two case studies at Caesarea: the vault complex; and the high aqueduct. She worked closely with Israel Antiquities Authority professional David Zell.  For each case study she followed this outline: first, explaining the location and significance of the structure; second, describing the technology behind the buildings; third, observing the state of the sites preservation; and finally, writing down the causes of erosion and deterioration of the sites.  The documentation of the sites and their state of preservation is only the first half of the project.

The second half of the project focused on one of the conservation techniques used to stabilize the sites. Grouting, according to Pfeister, “is the non-reversible procedure of injecting large amounts of mortar into the core of a structure for the purpose of stabilization”.  In conjunction with Zell, she not only described the process behind grouting and how it would be applied to the sites, she did an analysis of core samples taken from the sites in order to gain a better idea of when grouting would be necessary.

Her conclusion speaks to how important it is for people engaged in the fields of heritage, architecture, and archaeology: “If the conservator’s job is to pass heritage on to future generations, one should also explain how they do so. The act and process of conservation is part of the history of a place and its people, part of its narrative”.

Saving the Stones helps to train participants in these fields so that they not only have a better understanding of everything that goes into conservation of places and spaces, but also gives them a chance to apply their training into real world situations and explore the complexities of heritage and preservation further in detail.

Click to view Amy’s original article published by the Israel Antiquities Authority

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