Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies



Students training in the Wolfson Archaeological Laboratory EPMA

Courses provided by IAMS are now fully integrated in UCL's Institute of Archaeology and include a third year undergraduate course as well as a two post-graduate level courses as part of the MSc in the Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials.

Programme co-ordinator: Ian Freestone.
Other Major Contributors: Thilo Rehren; Bill Sillar; Ulrike Sommer; John Merkel; Dafydd Griffiths; Patrick Quinn; Marcos Martinón-Torres

MSc Technology Handbook Cover
This one-year programme offers students an introduction to the scientific study of a broad range of materials typically found in archaeological excavations and museum collections. It is designed for graduates in archaeology with a strong interest in scientific methods. It is also suitable for conservators and others concerned with archaeological collections, and for science graduates who have or are willing to acquire a good understanding of archaeology.

The programme provides an overview of the role of materials in past societies, enabling the student to understand and interpret scientific data derived from the investigation of these materials. It gives students the opportunity to analyse materials they have chosen to specialise in (see options) using the Institute's own analytical equipment and related facilities (optical and electron microscopy, X-ray radiography, image processing; bulk and spot analysis by X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and microprobe; phase identification by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Fourier transform infrared spectrocopy (FTIR); data handling, analysis and presentation).

Students are required to take the core course and a total of two full optional elements (see Core Course & Options). They write a dissertation of around 15,000 words on a topic related to the degree, preferably based on their own analytical work.

The Core Course:
Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials.
The core course will introduce students to the social aspects of technology and materials as well as providing a broad introduction to analytical methods and research design. There are three strands to this core course:
a) Technology within Society
b) Research Design and Materials Analysis
c) Seminar Series: Archaeological Analysis and Interpretation

Members of the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical studies offer three courses on ancient metallurgy through UCL's Institute of Archaeology. These courses, one of which is aimed at undergraduates and two of which are aimed at post-graduate masters and PhD students, teach students various aspects of mining, extractive, and production technologies covering the entire range of ancient metals.

  • Archaeometallurgy (ARCL3001)
    Coordinator: Marcos Martinón-Torres

    This undergraduate course introduces the origins and evolution of metallurgy up to the Renaissance, with an emphasis on the information contained in archaeological remains.

    It covers the archaeologically most important metals (gold, silver, copper, bronze, tin, lead, iron, steel) and addresses extractive metallurgy, production and manufacturing techniques, from the mine to the finished artefact. Case studies are presented from research projects across the world, integrating metallurgy within wider social and economic contexts and archaeological questions.

    The course is taught by lectures and some hands-on seminars.

  • Archaeometallurgy I: Mining and extractive technology (ARCLG108)
    Coordinator: Marcos Martinón-Torres

    The aims of this post-graduate course are to give students a fundamental understanding of the development and spread of mining and metallurgy within their geological and archaeological contexts from the Neolithic up to the Renaissance. This includes a brief introduction to the concept of metals as a specific class of material, with a considerable diversity in properties among different metals. Based on this, it strives to convey some of the basic chemical and metallurgical processes relevant to the primary production of metal, including the principles of ore reduction, slag formation, alloying and refining. While copper/bronze and iron/steel take centre stage as the most important metals, individual sessions will address the less common metals and alloys. Examples are drawn from Europe, Western Asia and America, and include current research projects carried out at the Institute.

  • Archaeometallurgy II: Metallic artefacts (ARCLG109)
    Coordinator: John Merkel

    This post-graduate 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.

Every year, the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies provides a short intensive course combining lectures on ancient mining from Dr Brigitte Cech as well as several presentations by preeminent scholars in the field of archaeo-metallurgy. These lectures cover a wide range of topics in the discipline such as alloying technology, furnace design, technical ceramic production, and experimental reconstructions. The wide range of expertise and diverse knowledge base of the scholars invited to present at the summer school ensures that it remains an ever evolving teaching experience that provides world class training for anyone interested in learning more about this interesting and emerging field of study.

This year the IAMS summer school will be held at UCL's Institute of Archaeology from the 24th of June to the 5th of July 2019. The programme will be announced shortly