Amateur Archaeologists – Here’s How To Clean Up Your Finds!

Written by on September 26, 2013 in Career - No comments | Print this page


If you fancy yourself as an amateur archaeologist and you spend your spare time digging around for buried treasure, then you are in good company. Many people see this as a really satisfying pastime – it is exciting because you never know what you are going to find, and it is sociable because you’ll meet a lot of other people along the way.

No matter what you find as you are digging, you will need to be able to take it home and clean it up without the risk of damaging it. Whether it’s a coin, a bone, or something else that you have found, read our guide to find out the best cleaning techniques for your artifacts:

Should You Clean It?

If you have found something that you believe could be a very important historical item then you are probably best off not cleaning it at all – any damage, no matter how slight, could really compromise an expert’s ability to date and value it.

Simply put it in a bag or a box and ensure no harm comes to it until it lands in the expert’s hands. They will thank you for leaving it as it is, as too many historical pieces have been damaged by over-eager people wanting to give it a clean.

Establish the Material

Assuming you are happy to clean the item yourself, the first thing you need to do is to decide which material your newly found artifact is made of. If it is metal, then what kind of metal is it – for example bronze, iron, copper or tin? If it is pottery, then is it china or porcelain or something else?

Cleaning Options

Brush off any loose dirt and debris with a soft-bristled brush first. You could try washing it with a little soapy water, or even polishing it up with some metal polisher if it is a coin or similar. You can get special vacuum machines which will carefully suck out any mold or grime without causing any damage.

You may even wish to get the artifact cleaned ultrasonically – this is a method whereby ultrasound is used to clean really delicate and fragile items. It’s a very quick and easy method, taking around three or four minutes, and using water and a solvent, it will bring the object up like new.

When to Wet Clean

If the material is up to it, you could try washing it with some soapy water. Avoid this method when trying to clean wood (unless the finish looks strong enough to stop the water from being absorbed into the wood). If it is clothing, then make sure it hasn’t been dyed, and that it is strong enough to cope with being wet.

Always take a huge amount of care when cleaning up an item that you have found. You never really know what’s in your hands until you see it all cleaned up, so don’t risk damaging it in the process – you’ll sorely regret it! If you are in any doubt whatsoever then always take it to an expert to clean.

Featured images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source
  •  License: Creative Commons image source
  •  License: Creative Commons image source
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Today’s feature writer, Alex Jennings, is an engineering graduate who shares knowledge about a number of industrial manufacturing systems and procedures through her blogs. She works with Zenith Ultrasonics, a company specializing in ultrasonic cleaning services and products since 1935. Visit this website to know more about her work.


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