Investigation of complex metallurgical processes
John Merkel's work in experimental archaeology with ancient metallurgy represents a long-term project, starting from his PhD research completed at the Institute of Archaeology in 1983. This series of copper smelting experiments were based on Late Bronze Age remains from the site at Timna, Israel, and followed earlier research by students under the supervision of the late Professor RF Tylecote.
The experiments have been supported with technical studies of the metallurgical materials. EPMA, SEM-EDS, AAS, ICP, XRF, XRD and metallography have been the main analytical techniques used to characterize the materials. The objective was to improve interpretation of the archaeometallurgical evidence through testing using an experimental approach and have addressed practical, observational controls of complex metallurgical processes. These experiences will be incorporated into a planned textbook for archaeometallurgy teaching.
Experimental reconstructions have been undertaken at Batan Grande, Peru as well as Al’Ain, Abu Dhabi. These experiments covered pre-Inka copper-arsenic production as well as Chalcolithic to Islamic copper production in Abu Dhabi.
John's research on copper production has continued with his participation in 2009-2010 with the Venetian Renaissance Bronzes Project (VRBP) with Victoria Avery and Andrew Lacey, a former Institute student who now runs his own bronze foundry, and with whom John has collaborated for several years on topics in experimental archaeometallurgy concerning furnace operation.
- Conference: Experiment and Experience - Ancient Egypt in the Present. Centre for Egyptology & Mediterranean Archaeology (CEMA), Swansea University, Wales. 10-12 May 2010. The presentation is available as a podcast and will be adapted to include more of the archaeological dating evidence for a single-authored, reviewed paper in the conference proceedings.
- Conference: Accidental and Experimental Archaeometallurgy. Historical Metallurgy Society Annual Conference, 2-3 September 2010. The presentation, which serves in part as a tribute to the experimental work of the late Prof RF Tylecote, is currently being developed as a single-author ed, conference paper in an edited volume.
- Interim publication on the Peruvian smelting experiments have appeared. Prof Izumi Shimada and John Merkel are currently working on the final full publication of this data.
- Experimental work in Abu Dhabi was documented on film with an accompanying short publicity leaflet.