Venetian materials: skin and bone at Ca’ Foscari

After the exertions of the excursion to the lagoon and its marshy environs we were back on dry land on Day Two with a visit to the impressive facilities in the Ca’ Foscari new-build on the mainland. Together with Krish Seetah from Stanford and Alexs Pluskowski from Reading we were introduced to the research students working with Diego Calaon on the Torcello and Venetian lagoon project and shown a number of objects and bones, including goat, excavated during their work. With a perennial eye on all things Aldine, we were delighted to hear they’d also discovered Dolphin remains at the site.

Ca' Foscari studio

We then had a roundtable discussion about our mutual interest in materials, in parchment as fauna, in the possibility of developing new testing techniques for parchment samples looking at isotopes and in considering ways in which the archival parchment record could be linked to the archeological fieldwork in Torcello. There is clearly potential to combine competencies to assess the use made of animals in the Middle Ages through analysis of excavation data and parchment and leather products in combination with contemporary documentary records on parchment.

Afterwards we transferred across the site to the laboratories run by Prof. Elisabetta Zandri in the Department of Environmental Science, Informatics and Statistics whose team work extensively on the preservation and conservation of culture heritage. In our tour of their facilities the extent of the task they face in meeting the many challenges faced by Venice and its fabric became apparent and that big problems required minute examination.

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The work being done on the stability and fragility of paints and pigments when exposed to different atmospheric conditions was redolent of some of the questions faced in looking at the impact of dying and tinting on parchment quality and production.

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Afterwards we returned to more familiar surroundings. A big thank you to both Diego and Elisabetta and their teams for their time and generosity in hosting us all over the last couple of days. Its been a pleasure. As Caroline returned to Manchester today, Julianne and I prepare for our meeting at the Marciana prior to our own march on Rome.

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