Archaeology: Preservation, conservation and restoration of artifacts

19 September 2017
 Categories: , Blog

Artefacts are objects that are discovered and retrieved during archaeology excavations. These objects are usually studied to understand their history of association with human beings and how they improved the lives of the then present people. Two factors are used to identify and know the period which the artefacts were used:

  • How much the objected is weathered
  • How chemical changes have altered the make-up of the specimen

These artefacts have to be kept well, and this is done through the process of preservation, conservation and restoration.


Preservation is the process of sustaining artefacts by keeping them in a stable environment to stop any more deterioration from occurring. It prevents as well as protects the objects from damage. Degradation occurs when the specimen is changed by factors that lead to its destruction. Such factors include environmental factors or by the artefact's own composition that may contain unstable materials.

The purpose of preservation is:

  • To compare the technology used to make up the tools with recently discovered ones to know the similarities and differences.
  • To enable a study of the tools to comprehend the life of the early people.
  • To allow students and others to study the artefacts as laboratory specimens.


Conservation is preventing the object from undergoing any more deterioration. It tries to preserve as much of the artefact as possible in its original state. Professional conservators perform specialised sterilisation on the specimens to do away with anything that may cause damage. Any remodelling or renovation done on the artefact must not alter, remove or combine with the original material. Any work done on them must be possible to reverse or remove without affecting the original state of the material. Through conservation, the artefact can be stored without any risk of damage.


Restoration here deals with the final appearance of the object. The restorers determine the period when the artefacts were in use and work to return the specimen to appear as it did in that time. Restoration is vital because it enables the object to retell history and assist in understanding different time periods better. Professionals who restore artefacts understand that if the process is not done carefully, permanent change may happen to it thereby rendering it a useless object that cannot show the actual progress of humanity and technology. Therefore it is a delicate, deliberate process that only the best carry out, like museums and well-equipped laboratories.