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HomeThe DigMarch 2010
Where are We Digging Now?


The pistol
The pistol
Conservators from the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project and Colonial Williamsburg are working on a pistol found in a well in James Fort in 2006. Largely intact with substantial portions of the gun free of corrosion, even the pistol's wooden stock survives due to its submersion under water for the last 400 years. Because the pistol is made of several materials (wood for the stock, brass for the barrel, iron for the lockplate, etc.) the conservation process is particularly tricky. Usually artifacts are made of one material and can thus be conserved using a method particular to that material. For the pistol, the conservators have to be mindful of the other materials when conserving one. The wooden sections of the pistol are particularly sensitive to being exposed to the air and will shrink and become disfigured if not kept moist.

X-Rays of the pistol reveal the remaining metal beneath the corrosion
X-Rays of the pistol reveal the remaining metal beneath the corrosion
Some metal portions of the pistol have nearly totally rusted away, leaving only a thin layer of magnetite(a by-product of metal corrosion) above where the original metal once existed. To preserve the original shape of the pistol in sections where only magnetite remains, an epoxy will be injected and left to harden before the magnetite is removed. The conservation process will last several more weeks. Meanwhile, the archaeological crew is preparing to return to the field with the arrival of warm weather.


More Recent Photos:
The pistol submerged in deionized water
The pistol submerged in deionized water
Colonial Williamsburg conservator Chris Wilkins demonstrates using a magnet to estimate the density of iron.  Jamestown Rediscovery Senior Conservator Michael Lavin looks on.
Colonial Williamsburg conservator Chris Wilkins demonstrates using a magnet to estimate the density of iron. Jamestown Rediscovery Senior Conservator Michael Lavin looks on.

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