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Unfreezing history. A study to find historical, technological and conservational possibilities for the earliest example of a Neolithic bow case ever to be found

English title Unfreezing history. A study to find historical, technological and conservational possibilities for the earliest example of a Neolithic bow case ever to be found
Applicant Di Pietro Giovanna
Number 159662
Funding scheme Interdisciplinary projects
Research institution FSP Materialität in Kunst und Kultur HKB Forschung Hochschule der Künste Bern
Institution of higher education Berne University of Applied Sciences - BFH
Main discipline Arts
Start/End 01.04.2016 - 31.08.2020
Approved amount 351'100.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Arts
Prehistory

Keywords (6)

Neolithic archaeology; birch bark ; bow case; object conservation; ice patch; freeze-drying

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Zwischen 2003 und 2005 wurde an einem schmelzenden Eisfeld in den westlichen Berner Alpen ein Objekt aus zugeschnittenen und vernähten Birkenkorkbahnen entdeckt. Es stellte sich heraus, dass es sich hier um das erste und bislang einzige Bogenfutteral aus dem Neolithikum (um 2800 v. Chr.) handelt. Die einzigartige Schutzhülle für einen Bogen revolutioniert die Kenntnis der neolithischen Jagdtechnik im alpinen Bereich und erlaubt einen einmaligen Einblick in die prähistorische europäische Kultur. Jedoch birgt das Objekt einige Herausforderungen, da es weder mit entsprechenden neolithischen Funden vergleichbar ist, noch ausreichend Wissen dazu existiert, wie dieses einmalige Artefakt langfristig erhalten werden kann.
Lay summary
Übergeordnetes Ziel ist, sowohl die Bedeutung und Funktion als auch die Möglichkeiten der langfristigen Erhaltung des Birkenkorkobjektes zu untersuchen. Genauer gesagt werden wir (i) das Objekt, jüngeren Bogenfutteralen und Objekten gleicher Machart aber anderer Funktion mittels eingehender Recherche in europäischen, russischen und mongolischen Sammlungen, gegenüberstellen, (ii) anhand eines hochauflösenden 3-D Models, dass mithilfe moderner Scantechniken erstellt wird, detailliert untersuchen, wie das Futteral hergestellt wurde, (iii) den Abbaugrad der Birkenkorkzellen mittels verschiedener bildgebender mikroskopischer Verfahren untersuchen, und diesen, mit dem Erhaltungszustand neolithischer Birkenkorkproben, aus anderen Erhaltungskontexten, vergleichen und zuletzt (iv) mögliche Schäden bei der Trocknung von gefrorenen Birkenkorkobjekten analysieren, sowie Möglichkeiten der Trocknung und der Konsolidierung erarbeiten.

Unser Projekt wird unser Verständnis der neolithischen alpinen Kultur erweitern und erstmals einen Leitfaden zur Konservierung von neolithischen Birkenkorkobjekten liefern, welche auf das Wissen über die ablaufenden Abbauprozesse beruht. Das ist nicht nur für das einzigartige Futteral relevant sondern für ein breites Spektrum an organischen Objekten, welche, aufgrund der Klimaerwärmung, aus schmelzenden Eisfeldern zutage treten.


Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.03.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The interaction of water with archaeological and ethnographic birch bark and its effects on swelling, shrinkage and deformations
Klügl Johanna, Di Pietro Giovanna (2021), The interaction of water with archaeological and ethnographic birch bark and its effects on swelling, shrinkage and deformations, in Heritage Science, 9(3), 1-15.
Neolithic and Bronze Age Archery Equipment from Alpine Ice-Patches: A Review on Components, Construction Techniques and Functionality
Junkmanns Jürgen, Klügl Johanna, Schoch Werner, Di Pietro Giovanna, Hafner Albert (2019), Neolithic and Bronze Age Archery Equipment from Alpine Ice-Patches: A Review on Components, Construction Techniques and Functionality, in Journal of Neolithic Archaeology, 21, 283-314.
Towards a description of the degradation of archaeological birch bark
Klügl J., Hafner A., Di Pietro G. (2017), Towards a description of the degradation of archaeological birch bark, International Council of Museums, Paris.
On the rolling and plasticization of birch bark
Klügl Johanna, Hafner Albert, Di Pietro Giovanna, On the rolling and plasticization of birch bark, in 14th ICOM-CC Wet Organic Archaeological Materials (WOAM) Working Group Conference, Portsmouth UKArchetype, London.

Datasets

Maximum moisture content of contemporary birch bark

Author Kluegl, Johanna; Di Pietro, Giovanna
Publication date 22.10.2020
Persistent Identifier (PID) 10.5281/zenodo.4118228
Repository Zenodo
Abstract
Data accompanying the article published on the Icom-CC proceedings 2017 Copenhagen.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart Germany (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure
Zürcher Hochschule der Künste Switzerland (Europe)
- Exchange of personnel
Eremitage Museum, St Petersburg Russia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
ProUmid GmbH Germany (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Eidg. Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft WSL Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Institut für Antatomie, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Institute of Forensic Medicine of the University of Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure
National Museum of Denmark Denmark (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) Talk given at a conference Birch bark – the material and its processing with regard to the examination of the earliest known Neolithic bow case 04.09.2019 Bern, Switzerland Hafner Albert; Klügl Johanna;
Studies in the Arts (SINTA) Tag Talk given at a conference Freischmelzende Geschichte. Eine Studie zur Entwicklung von Konservierungsoptionen für das erste und einzige Beispiel eines neolithischen Bogenfutterals 06.03.2019 Bern, Switzerland Klügl Johanna;
Donnerstagskolloquium der Hochschule der Künste (Forschung) Individual talk Unfreezing History 30.11.2018 Bern, Switzerland Klügl Johanna;
Forschungskolloquium zur Prähistorischen Archäologie Talk given at a conference Freischmelzende Geschichte. Das Bogenfutteral vom Schnidejoch 15.10.2018 Bern, Switzerland Klügl Johanna; Hafner Albert;
Kolloquium des Archäologischen Dienstes des Kantons Bern Individual talk 10 Jahre Bogenfutteral - Die Konservierung einer einmaligen neolithischen Bogenschutzhülle 19.04.2018 Bern, Switzerland Klügl Johanna;
18th ICOM-CC Triennial Conference Talk given at a conference Towards a description of the degradation of archaeological birch bark 04.09.2017 Kopenhagen, Denmark Di Pietro Giovanna; Klügl Johanna;
Forschungstag der Graduate School of the Arts (GSA) Talk given at a conference Freischmelzende Geschichte. Eine Studie zur Entwicklung von Konservierungsoptionen für das erste und einzige Beispiel eines neolithischen Bogenfutterals 17.06.2017 Bern, Switzerland Klügl Johanna;
Forschungsapéro der HKB Poster Unfreezing history – A study to find historical, technological and conservational possibilities for the earliest example of a Neolithic bow case ever to be found 08.03.2017 Bern, Switzerland Di Pietro Giovanna;
13th ICOM-CC Wet Organic Archaeological Materials Conference Talk given at a conference Unfreezing History. A study to find historical, technological and conservational possibilities for the earliest example of a Neolithic bow case ever to be found 12.05.2016 Florenz, Italy Di Pietro Giovanna;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Austauschwoche zur Birkenrinderestaurierung 12.06.2017 Bern, Riggisberg, Zürich, Neuchatel, Russia

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
1st Wet Organic Material Round Table Switzerland Talk 05.06.2018 Zürich, Switzerland Klügl Johanna;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Museumsnacht 2019 German-speaking Switzerland International 2019
Media relations: radio, television Pionierforschung zu den Funden vom Schnidejoch SRF 1 German-speaking Switzerland 2019
Media relations: print media, online media Das Goretex der Steinzeit Berner Zeitung (BZ) German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Schwarze schrumpelige Streifen HKB Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Hier wordt de vroege Noorse geschiedenis bewaard Restanten van huizen in het uiterste noorden van N de Volkskrant International 2016

Abstract

This project aims to define long-term conservation strategies for this unique, earliest example of a Neolithic bow case and to shed light on its historical significance by investigating how it was manufactured and used. The bow case, dating from around 2800 B.C., was found in 2003 protruding from an ice patch at the Schnidejoch Pass in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland. It is an archaeological object of outstanding value, since it is the only existing bow case from prehistoric Europe and it is the only Neolithic birch bark container to be built in this way. The Schnidejoch bow case poses two major challenges: firstly, it is unique and can therefore only be inserted into the archaeological context by comparing it with later dated bow cases; secondly, it is an archaeological object made of a material whose degradation process is as yet unknown and it is unclear how it should be preserved.The main body of the bow case, found immersed in melted ice, is stored frozen at -20 °C. At the moment it is the highlight of the Bern History Museum “The Pile Dwellers” exhibition but we know that transport and handling in frozen state can cause uncontrolled surface drying and formation of ice crystals. Our project, situated at the intersection between the science of object conservation and archaeology, aims at determining if and how the bow case can be dried to ensure long-term preservation and access and at expanding our archaeological understanding of this exceptional object.The two disciplines will collaborate to gain knowledge about the technology of the bow case. The bow case will be thawed in a controlled manner and secured in a form fitted encapsulating support to allow analysis of the construction and taking of samples. The construction will be investigated with high-resolution CT images and structured-light 3D scanning to build a complete 3D model. To supply details of the function of the bow case and examine the hypothesis that it was a common, rather than an exclusive piece of equipment in the Neolithic era, we propose to compare the bow case with Neolithic quivers, with later cases, and finally carry out experiments on reconstructed replicas to test its use. This intensive study will give new insights into prehistoric bow equipment and the comparative analysis of ethnographic materials from historical bow hunters will advance our understanding of the technology, the use and the maintenance of one of the earliest weapons of mankind.The samples of the bow case will be investigated with electron microscopy techniques (ESEM, SEM and TEM) to understand the micro-structure of the birch bark cells and their state of preservation. To define a range of possible birch bark degradation patterns these investigations will be repeated on archaeological samples of ice-logged birch bark from Lendbreen (Norway) and water-logged birch bark from Moosseedorf (Switzerland). These results, together with precise measurement of the water content at different temperatures above and below zero with a Mcbain-Bakr Quartz balance and with classical measurements of maximum water content and basic density, will allow us to make a prognosis on the magnitude of the risk of cell wall collapse during drying. The actual reaction of birch bark to drying without a previous consolidation will be examined both microscopically and macroscopically. Microscopically ESEM and Freeze-drying light microscopy will be used. Macroscopically 3D scanning will be employed to investigate eventual delaminations and cracks during drying of ice-logged archaeological larger samples donated to the project for research purposes. This range of investigations will allow us to forecast the consequences of the two drying procedures for ice-logged and water-logged birch bark objects and provide recommendations not only for the bow case but for a much wider range of objects. The Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, custodian of the bow case, will make the bow case available to the project and is committed to funding its restoration following the recommendations.
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