Summer School 2013 A Resounding Success

9 July 2013

The annual IAMS Summer School has just wrapped up and has yet again proven to be a resounding success. Twenty students joined us from across the globe and were taught the fundamentals of archaeometallurgy by this year's slightly altered line-up of professionals and academics.

One of our attendees, Dr. Yasser Abd El-Rahman of Cairo University, was kind enough to provide us with a review of the Summer School which would like to share with our readers. We hope that it will give future students a taste of what can be expected from joining our IAMS summer course.

IAMS Summer School 2013 Group Photo

"Attending iams summer school on archaeometallurgy in 2013 was one of my best experiences. I am a geologist from Egypt and I used to see ancient mines and smelting remains scattered in the desert. I was looking for a course to learn the fundamental of mining and metal production in antiquity. In addition to these two points, the course also introduced me to the analyses of metallic artifacts. It is not just about science, the course also enabled me to consider ancient mining and smelting processes and manufacturing of various ferrous and non-ferrous metals from an archaeological point of view.

IAMS Summer School 2013 Marcos Martinon-Torre Teaching

The lecturers of the course were excellent. They were knowledgeable and helpful. They also had a great experience in archaeometallurgy, which gives confidence about the content of the course. The course structure was good. It began with a thorough introduction on archaeometallurgy taught by Prof. Thilo Rehren. He explained the basics of Archaeometallurgy with real examples, mostly from his own work. I really appreciate his thoughtful comments on bridging the gap between the professionals and the role of serendipity in archaeometallurgy. Then, we started a series of fantastic case studies on various aspects of archaeometallurgy. Dr. Simon Timberlake talked about early mining in the British Isles, starting from Prehistoric sites to Roman ones. He also showed us many of the ancient mining tools, either original pieces or experimentally reconstructed replicas of his finds. The next talk, by Dr. Anna Feuerbach, was about Damascus steel. Through the topic, she explained how to discriminate between what is rumor and what is fact and how to make interpretations within a holistic socio-cultural context. Dr. Brigitte Cech introduced us to the Roman and Medieval gold and iron mining techniques in Europe. After the lecture, she brought us to the British Museum to show us the remains of mining tools she mentioned in the lecture. I also enjoyed one of her lectures on the incorporation of school children and students in real excavations and how to involve public communities in preserving their own heritage. After all this information on ancient mining and smelting activities, the next talk was on the final product, the finished artifact. To be able to study the artifact, it is necessary to understand some metallographic concepts first. The lectures that were given by Dr. Eleanor Blakelock covered both the fundamentals of phase diagrams of metals and moved from alloying to copper working and iron manufacturing. During the lectures, we saw plenty of microphotographs covering a multitude of fabrics of various alloys. By the end of the day, we had the chance to see few of these alloys under the microscope. The last two days of the course were given by Dr. Marcos Martinón-Torres. Through one of his lectures on the weapons of the Terracotta Army, he illustrated a good example on how to understand the industrial engineering system in antiquity by integrating metric, chemical and spatial analyses on artifacts. In his second lecture on gold artifacts from Colombia, Dr. Marcos showed us how to use technological data from the artifacts to understand the societies which made and used the artifacts.

IAMS Summer School 2013 Hands-on Session

In addition to these excellent lectures, the course involved analysis, demonstration, and artifact handling sessions. This part of the course was a great help in obtaining a practical experience and in understanding how things function in real world. The summer school included training on three instruments which are widely used in archaeometallurgical studies, SEM-EDS, XRF and portable XRF. First, there were lectures explaining the scientific concepts of the three instruments given by Marcos Martinón-Torres. The lectures were followed by demonstrations on both XRF and SEM-EDS that were preceded by practical session on sample preparation steps for both instruments. There was also a practical session on the use of portable XRF to analyze metallic artifacts. During the sessions I acquired hands-on training on using this instrument to analyze the composition of both ancient coins and metallic statuettes. The last day of the course was the handling session. The handling session was a practical way to sum up the intensive information given during the last two weeks. During the session, I saw a large number of specimens ranging from primary ores used for smelting to the various types of copper ingots and iron blooms. The collection also included various types of crucibles and furnace fragments along with slag pieces and chunks. The discussion, covering every specimen with Marcos Martinón-Torres, was helpful. I think that after all the information I have acquired from the lectures and all the specimens I have seen, I will be able to work on the ancient mining sites in Egypt in a more systematic way form the archaeological perspective. Moreover, I will be able to handle the smelting remains in a better way and to put them in their right context. 

Also, I enjoyed meeting people from different countries and with different backgrounds in the course. It was great to chat and share ideas and information. I would like to thank the organizers who gave me the opportunity to attend this excellent course by waiving the tuition cost. I hope to be able to organize a similar summer school in Archaeometallurgy in Egypt one day in the near future."

Yasser Abd El-Rahman, Ph.D.
Geology Department
Faculty of Science
Cairo University

Page last modified on 09 jul 13 20:31