Institute of Archaeology

Archaeometallurgy II: Metallic Artefacts

This course will consider archaeological interpretations of technical data gained from the analysis of metal objects, using chemical and physical methods.

Alloy compositions and fabrication techniques used to produce metal objects fundamentally relate to artefact function, efficiency, original appearance and corrosion. Technical studies of metallic artefacts enable better assessment of craftsmanship as well as identifying metallurgical traditions, innovation and likely origins.

The emphasis is on the interpretation of metal artefact assemblages. Examples are drawn primarily from Europe, the Near East and South America.

Aims of the course

This course presents an overview of catalogues and technical studies published for ancient metallic artefacts. The aim is to provide the background necessary to interpret technical data utilized in archaeometallurgical research. The course concentrates on aspects of physical metallurgy, metalworking techniques and archaeology relevant to common metals and alloys used in antiquity: copper, copper alloys, iron and steel, lead, tin, pewter and soft solders, silver and gold. The chronological periods covered in the course include the Late Neolithic to the Renaissance. Geographically, the course has emphasized developments in Europe and the Middle East. Some case studies are also drawn from pre-Columbian South America.


On successful completion of this course a student should:

  • Be able to assess published typological classifications, descriptions and technological data for ancient metallic artefacts.
  • Be familiar with the general chronological framework for metallurgical developments as well as recognise and appreciate regional metallurgical traditions and cultural contexts.
  • Understand fundamentals of physical and chemical properties as well as the corrosion of common metals and alloys used in antiquity
  • Have an overview of research priorities for metallic artefacts.
  • Be able to initiate x-radiograhic, metallographic and microanlytical studies.
  • Be prepared to undertake M.Sc. research utilising metallographic and microanalytical data for ancient metallic artefacts (option).

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to have developed:

  • observation skills for metalworking techniques
  • critical evaluation skills
  • and demonstrated application of acquired knowledge through two essays.

Teaching Methods

The course is taught through lectures and tutorials with supervised laboratory work. Most lectures include use of metal objects from the teaching collection. Laboratory sessions will be scheduled as appropriate in the Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratories in the Institute of Archaeology. Lectures have weekly recommended readings, which students will be expected to have done, to be able fully to follow and actively to contribute to a discussion.

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG109
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: tbc
  • Prerequisite: There are no prerequisites for this course. This course is planned to follow ARCLG108 Archaeometallurgy I: Mining and Extractive Metallurgy, but ARCLG108 is not a prerequisite. There is some necessary overlap of selected topics. Laboratory projects utilising x-radiography, metallography and compositional analyses are an optional part of one essay topic selection in ARCLG109.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Not running in 2017-18

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