We are thrilled to share that Upper School Assistant Librarian Jenny Cashman has recently returned from Lisbon, Portugal, where she presented to The International Colloquium “Tutankhamun and Carter: Assessing the impact of a major archaeological find.” Jenny, in addition to working in our library, is an Egyptologist and archaeologist who has excavated with different teams in Egypt at Dra' Abu el Naga, Mit Rahina, Berenike, and Assasif, as well as Greece and California. At the University of California, Los Angeles, she earned an MA in archaeology and a master's in library and information science (MLIS), continuing with additional graduate studies in Egyptology at the University of Oxford. Her research included the study of scribal palettes and related objects in Tutankhamun's tomb and other burial contexts.
At the conference, which was organized by the Centre for History of the University of Lisbon and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, she presented the paper “The Laboratory in the Tomb Next Door: Lucas and the Science of Conserving Tutankhamun’s Treasures.” Read on for the full abstract of her paper below:
The team working with Howard Carter on the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62) was a dedicated group of Egyptologists, archaeologists, and scientific experts. From the beginning, the participation of Alfred Lucas was crucial for the long-term survival of the objects that were excavated from the tomb.
Lucas was an analytical chemist with decades of experience in preserving archaeological finds. Through his official job with the Egyptian government, he had become an expert in Egyptian materials and in forensics and had appeared as a forensic witness at some high-profile trials in Egypt. He had his own presence and relationship with the media. Called the "Sherlock Holmes of Egypt" by the Egyptian Gazette, he also authored articles in newspapers, explaining the processes of conservation and work on objects in the tomb.
For his work, a rudimentary laboratory space was set up in the nearby tomb of Seti II (KV15). There the artifacts were cleaned, repaired, and stabilized for the long trip to Cairo. His notes from all nine seasons of work in the tomb provide insight into his processes.
The contributions of Lucas are important not only to the Tutankhamun discovery but to the broader public appreciation of conservation work, and to the development of the field of conservation. In 1924, in the midst of the clearing of the Tutankhamun tomb, he published two books that were foundational in Egyptology and conservation: Ancient Egyptian Materials, and Antiques: their Restoration and Preservation.
In this paper, selected objects from the tomb are considered, including several boxes of jumbled and decomposed materials that Lucas painstakingly worked through. His notebooks and notations on Carter’s notecards, along with Burton’s photos, available online through Oxford’s Griffith Institute Archive, provide an opportunity to continue to “excavate” the tomb of Tutankhamun.