The site of Tilmen Höyük, with its archaeological park, is the subject of your latest publication which you dedicated to Giorgio Squinzi and Adriana Spazzoli. What memories do you have of them?
Boundless joviality and energy, enthusiasm and respect for Italy’s contribution in the field of cultural heritage, a desire to contribute their own excellence for conservating our shared past. Whenever I visited Mapei’s headquarters in Milan, Adriana Spazzoli was always on fire with a never-ending barrage of questions, comments, projects and proposals, you felt welcomed with a warmth which, to be fair, made her and the both of them really unique. It was something I could also see quite clearly through the relationship they had with the managers and employees at Mapei, there was this really close bond, especially on a human level, their interest was real and ran deep.
Is it possible to visit the archaeological parks at the moment? And are there still digs underway?
The answer is yes to both questions. The site of Tilmen has been open to the public since 2007 and Karkemish since the summer of 2019. Maintenance at both sites is carried out constantly by our Turkish-Italian expedition. Security and the infrastructures for visitors, on the other hand, are the responsibility of local authorities. Excavations are only being carried out now at the site of Karkemish in Turkey – every year there are finds that change the way we look at the history of the ancient Near East, while unearthing new monumental Hittite architecture (which then needs to be conservated) – and now, of course, the Nineveh project in Iraq has started as well.
You started collaborating with Mapei at the time of the archaeological digs in Jericho, followed by those at Tilmen Höyük and Tasli Geçit Höyük, and more recently at Karkemish. How important has the support provided by Mapei Technical Services been in helping to select the best products?
During my visits to Mapei SpA’s Research & Development Lab to meet Pasquale Zaffaroni, Mapei Group’s Product Manager of the Building Line, we analysed the physical characteristics of the ancient materials that needed to be conservated (from extremely fragile, sun-dried bricks made from mud and straw, to soft limestone or very hard basalt cracked by the flames of ancient fires, right up to almost imperceptible layers of coloured mortars). Then, while going through the range of Mapei products available, we discussed the specific performance properties required for our needs. And almost every time we carried out testing in the field, there was a successful outcome starting from the very first application, and this was always thanks to the hard work of the Mapei Technical Services.
Did the Mapei products fulfill your requirements to carry out interventions based on full respect of the ancient structures?
From bonding the basalt orthostats in the royal palaces and temples with ADESILEX PG2 adhesive, to the consolidation of rough bricks and mortars and the filling of potentially unstable gaps in the ancient walls with products from that incredible line which is MAPE-ANTIQUE, to a myriad of other micro-solutions we managed to define thanks to the Mapei range, we have always been at the cutting-edge of conservation work on structures dating back thousands of years.