Pretty unassuming, right?

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One of our conservators, Yvonne Helmholz, has made a potential interesting discovery during the routine cleaning of an artifact destined for the study collection at the Diyarbakir Museum. The artifact is a flat bone plaque, roughly rectangular in shape. It is small, roughly 7.5cm by 5cm (3 inches by 2 inches) in size. Here is a picture of what it looked like when it came out of the ground.

Bone plaque ZT 13720 prior to conservation.
Bone plaque ZT 13720 prior to conservation.

Such objects are often used as decorative panels for wooden furniture such as chairs, tables, or beds. However, in this case, the bone appeared to be undecorated. Under the microscope, however, Yvonne discovered traces of very fine etching which may have the result of working the bone plaque into shape. More intriguing were minute traces of what looks like a very thin layer of metallic tin and a slightly thicker layer of gold on a few places. While we will need to undertake metallographic studies to confirm these initial observations, it seems not unlikely that this plain bone artifact may once have been covered in gold leaf. The tin, if that visual observation is confirmed by analysis, is more difficult to explain. Tin is often used as solder, but not with gold, so its function is unclear.

The plaque was discovered in Operation G in the lower town, in the corner room of wealthy residence. It was first discovered in 2003 and like so many artifacts that have been the subject of specialist analysis it has been waiting in line for final analysis. We are completing all of our field observations this year so there are certainly more interesting discoveries to come. After testing the metal residues, this interesting artifact is bound for the permanent study collections at the regional Diyarbakir Museum.

By matney

Dr. Matney is Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies at the University of Akron. He is the Director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition.

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