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Conserving a medieval dog skeleton

bones laid out on a table

When repair work was carried out in the Billiard Room at Speke Hall in the late 1970s the opportunity was taken to carry out an archaeological excavation under the floor. Amongst the archaeological finds here was this skeleton of a mediaeval dog, dating from around 1550. The head and one of the legs are missing and were possibly lost when alterations were made to the house, although it is a mystery how that happened.

In 2011 the remains of the skeleton were conserved before going on display in the Museum of Liverpool's History Detectives gallery|. The bones had survived pretty well since 1979 due to initial cleaning and repairs carried out soon after excavation. However they did need the following treatment to prepare them for display. Click on the thumbnails to see each stage of the process.

Our curator of zoology identifying and arranging the bones. The bones were then gently cleaned before consolidation. The bones were strengthened by impregnating them with a resin solution. This was carried out under a low vacuum to ensure the resin was properly absorbed. Here the bones are being placed in the vacuum chamber. Switching the vacuum chamber on. Old repairs carried out shortly after excavation had lots of excess glue and were weakened by the consolidation treatment. The old glue was cleaned off and the bones re-glued. Preparing to re-glue a break. Ribs and vertebrae had been numbered to indicate their positions. We didn't want the numbers visible on display so they were cleaned off before treatment and re-applied more discreetly afterwards. Applying lacquer over numbers to stop them rubbing off. Full skeleton laid out in display arrangement after conservation. Accession number 1981.895.6 Detail of one of the skeleton's feet.