Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies



SEM image of speiss prills

The Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies is involved with a number of research projects based mainly at the Institute of Archaeology but also partnered in a number of joint international projects. In addition, IAMS strives to encourage and support a number of students and scholars wishing to advance archaeo-metallurgical knowledge by providing financial aid to attend conferences and workshops.  

Current research being funded by IAMS includes:

Gold ming trenches in Jingxi
  • Gold/Silver Production During the Historical Periods of China, 7th to 10th Centuries AD

    This doctoral research project is being conducted by Siran Liu at UCL's Institute of Archaeology and is aimed at deciphering technical and cultural choices in China's Tang Dynasty's gold/silver smelting technology and reconstructing the activities associated with this industry in the wider cultural and geological landscape of Jiangxi province.

Microstructure of Early Slags from the Vinča Culture
  • On the Origins of Metallurgy in Europe: Metal Production in the Vinča Culture

    Miljana Radivojevic is currently involved in discerning the nature of the earliest smelting technology of the Old World in her current research on metallurgical remains from the Vinča culture (central Balkans) dating to c. 5400 to 4600 BC. This project will likely redefine our understanding of the emergence and spread of metallurgical technology. 

The Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies has been involved in a number of highly significant projects since its inception in 1973. These projects have continuously refined our understanding of past metallurgical practices and many of their related activities. Past IAMS projects include:

  • Timna Bronze Age Copper Mining and Smelting

    Starting in 1964, Professor Beno Rothenberg has systematically surveyed and excavated the smelting sites ofTimna in the Arabah Valley of the southern Negev. This project, spanning over 3 decades, directly led to the creation of IAMS and has been central to the Institute since its inception.

  • Silver Mining and Smelting at Rio Tinto

    Excavations led by Professor Beno Rothenberg in the mines of Rio Tinto, south-west Spain, became the second major research project of IAMS. The investigation of Rio Tinto has presented an astonishing picture of large-scale silver mining and sophisticated smelting from the European Middle Bronze Age of the second millennium BC onwards. The scale of the operation was immense - the processing of silver ore has left millions of tons of lead-silver slag that rises in mounds to a height of twenty metres and more. Located in the middle of this there is an astonishing layer of Phoenician material with Phoenician-influenced pottery and imported material. There is a definite connection with the Biblical story (Ezekiel 27:12) about Tarshish and the huge Phoenician metal trade during the 8th-6th centuries BC. The basic metallurgy does not change from the earlier period, but there are huge differences in scale and efficiency, indicating that at this period the Phoenician trading connections from the Middle East with mining in southern Spain became a major operation of great geopolitical significance.

  • Iron Smelting in Modakeke, Ife, South Western Nigeria

    This joint project with Dr. Akin Ige from the Natural History Museum of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria has been aimed at shedding light on the little studied iron smelting metallurgy of West Africa. Results have shown the iron metallurgy of this part of the world to be much more complex than previously thought, indicating the use of a mixed ore comprising limonite iron stone and ilmenit-rich black sand which resulted in a titania rich bloomery slag capable of extracting iron from the ore much more efficiently.

The Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies has always had a strong relationship with UCL's Institute of Archaeology by providing funding, research material, and advice on a wide range of topics. As such, IAMS is proud to have played a part in a number of past doctoral research projects. The following is a list of selected PhD dissertations on topics related to archaeometallurgy and conservation of metallic artifacts at the Institute of Archaeology.

  • Thondhlana, T. (2012) Metal workers and smelting precincts: an a rchaeometallurgical investigation of copper production in the Northern Lowveld, South Africa, c.AD 700 - 1900.
  • Zhou, W. (2012) Distilling Zinc in China: The Technology of large-scale zinc production in Chongqing during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (AD 1368-1911). (Full text available)
  • Radivojević, M. (2012) On the origins of metallurgy in Europe: Metal production in the Vinča culture.
  • Li, X. (2012) Standardisation, Labour Organisation and the Bronze Weapons of the Qin Terracotta Warriors. (Full text available)
  • Anguilano, L. (2012) Roman Lead Silver Smelting at Rio Tinto: the Case Study of Corta Lago. (Full text available)
  • Iles, L.E. (2011) Reconstructing the iron production technologies of Western Uganda: reconciling archaeometallurgical and ethnoarchaeological approaches. (Full text available)
  • Humphris, J.E. (2010) An archaeometallurgical investigation of iron smelting traditions in Southern Rwanda. (Full text available)
  • Mongiatti, A. (2009) Assaying and smelting noble metals in sixteenth-century Austria: a comparative analytical study. (Full text available)
  • Pryce, T.O. (2009) Prehistoric copper production and technological reproduction in the Khao Wong Prachan Valley of central Thailand. (Full text available)
  • Cohen, C.R. (2008) The winds of change: an archaeometallurgical study of silver production in the Porcopotosí Region, Southern Bolivia AD 1500-2000. (Full Text available)
  • Veldhuijzen, A. (2005) Archaeometric and archaeological analysis of early iron smelting and smithing from Tell Hammeh (az-Zarqa), Jordan.
  • Chirikure, S. (2005) Changing patterns of iron production in pre-history: an investigation of precolonial iron production in Zimbabwe, c. AD 800-1900.
  • Georgakopoulou, M. (2005) Technology and organization of Early Cycladic metallurgy: copper on Seriphos and Keros, Greece.
  • Martinon-Torres, M. (2005) Chymistry and crucibles in the Renaissance laboratory: an archaeometric and historical approach.
  • Bloxam, E. (2004) The organisation, transportation and logistics of hard-stone quarrying in the Egyptian Old Kingdom.
  • Bacon, L. (2004) A technical study of alloy compositions for "brass" wind musical instruments (1651-1867) utilizing non-destructive x-ray fluorescence.
  • Feuerbach, A. (2002) Crucible steel in Central Asia: production, use and origin.
  • Shugar, A. (2000) Archaeometallurgical investigation of the Chalcolithic site of Abu Matar, Israel.
  • Wang, Q. (2000) Metalworking technology and deterioration of Jin bronzes from the Tianma-Qucun site, Shanzi, China.
  • Brazil, R. (2000) An Investigation into the use of corrosion inhibitive treatments for the conservation of archaeological iron.
  • Sigurdardottir, K. (1999) Viking iron relics from Iceland.
  • Merideth, C. (1997) An archaeological survey for ancient tin mines and smelting sites in Spain and Portugal within the Mid-Central Iberian geographical region.
  • Juleff, G. (1996) Early iron and steel in Sri Lanka: a study of the Samanalawewa area.
  • Bewer, F. (1996) A study of the technology of Rennaissance bronze statuettes - the lost wax casting of Giambologna (1529-1608) models.
  • Srinivasan, S. (1996) Archaeo-metallurgical and stylistic re-analysis of Medieval South Indian statuary bronzes.
  • Faltermeier, R. (1995) The evaluation of corrosion inhibitors for application to copper and copper alloy archaeological artefacts.
  • Ponting, M. (1994) Folles and forgeries: an appraisal of the composition of Roman copper-alloy coinage of the mid 3rd to mid 4th centuries AD from Britain.
  • Kassianidou, V. (1993) Monte Romero (Huelva), a silver producing workshop of the Tartessian period in SW Spain.
  • Bayley, J. (1992) Non-ferrous metal working in England: late Iron Age to the early Medieval.
  • Al-Ahmed, Z. (1992) A new approach for the stabilization of archaeological iron objects.
  • Coot, V. (1991) The ultratrace element geochemistry of tin ores and archaeological bronzes using ICP-MS and the metals industry in prehistoric Thailand.
  • Gilmour, B. (1991) Developments in iron smithing and decorative welding techniques found in Anglo-Saxon swords and related edged weapons.
  • Bennett, A. (1988) Extractive copper metallurgy in central Thailand.
  • Photos, E. (1988) Early extractive iron metallurgy in N Greece: a unified approach to regional archaeometallurgy.
  • Clough, R. (1986) Iron: the industry during the Iron Age and Romano-British periods.
  • Pinto, A. (1986) Ageing process in gold alloys.
  • Merkel, J. (1983) Reconstruction of Bronze Age copper smelting, experiments based on archaeological evidence from Timna, Israel.
  • Rajpitak, W. (1983) The development of copper alloy metallurgy in Thailand in the pre-Buddhist period: with special reference to high-tin bronzes.
  • Gilberg, M.R. (1982) The application of liquid ammonia to the conservation of antiquities: with special reference to iron artifacts.
  • Scott, D. (1982) Pre-Hispanic Columbian metallurgy: studies of some gold and platinum alloys.
  • Leese, M.N. (1981) A statistical approach to the study of ancient copper alloy composition.
  • Cleere, H. (1981) The iron industry of Roman Britain.
  • Khalil, L. (1980) The composition and technology of copper alloy artefacts from Jericho and some related sites.