Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean — 18.2006(2008)

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SHEIKH ABD EL-GURNA

EGYPT

CONSERVATION WORK ON THREE
COPTIC MANUSCRIPTS FROM
SHEIKH ABD EL-GURNA

Daria Kordowska

The three Coptic manuscripts discovered
by a Polish mission in Sheikh Abd el-Gurna
in 2005 (Gorecki 2006: 266-272 and
Figs 3, 4), two on papyrus and one on
parchment, were protected provisionally
on the spot1 and transported by decision of
the Supreme Council of Antiquities to the
lab facilities of the National Museum in
Alexandria in March 2006 fur further
comprehensive treatment. The Sheikh Abd
el-Gurna Book Conservation Project
implemented in cooperation between the
Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archae-
ology (University of Warsaw) and the Polish
Ateliers for Conservation of Cultural
Property (PPKZ S.A.) worked in two
stages, first on 5 March-11 April and then
on 17 August-28 September 2006.2
The papyrus books were disinfected
first, after which the cards could be

separated (except for the final three quires
of the papyrus codex with stamped leather
cover). The parchment block was separated
into cards at once. As a result, the contents
of all three books could be fully
documented and identified by specialists.
Fiber degradation has been stopped and
the books are now in safe storage, awaiting
the next phase of conservation work when
they will be deacidified and consolidated,
and the numerous cracks and rips mended.
Work will be undertaken to clarify the
text. Another task for the future is se-
parating the papyrus scraps which were
used to produce the codex covers, as these
are expected to be inscribed as well.
An analysis has also been prepared
concerning the final presentation of the
books. Issues which need to be addressed in
preparing this program include the

1 Restorers Janina Wielowiejska and Izabela Mazur from the National Library in Warsaw, specialists in restoring old
books, prints, manuscripts and drawings, were rushed into the field to appraise the condition of the books and
undertake provisional on-the-spot treatment.
2 Conservators Daria Kordowska (paper, parchment and papyrus; acting head of the project) and Anna Thommee-Stachoh
(paper and parchment) of the PPKZ S.A. Books, Prints and Archives Conservation Atelier in Torun carried out the
conservation. The SCA was represented by Sofmez Ali Mohamed Ali and Ahmed Abdalla of the National Museum in
Alexandria.
The Project is deeply indebted to Amira Abu Bakr, Director of Conservation in the Alexandria branch of the SCA, and
to the staff of the National Museum in Alexandria for all-encompassing assistance in preparing proper conditions for
carrying out the work. We are also grateful to Tomasz Gorecki, director of the Sheikh Abd el-Gurna Archaeological
Mission (PCMA) for all his efforts in starting this project. By the same, we would like to thank Dr. Zbigniew Szafranski
and Dr. Grzegorz Majcherek, deputy directors of the PCMA in Cairo and Alexandria respectively, for their help, advice
and patience in organizing the work of the Project.

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