Carlotta Gardner

Metalworking Crucibles in Roman Britain

This project aims to investigate the technological and social dimensions of Roman period crucibles in Britain. Ceramic crucibles are integral to metallurgical processes. It has previously been demonstrated that a great wealth of information can be gathered through the analysis, both typologically and scientifically, of these materials (e.g. Bayley and Rehren 2007, Freestone and Tite 1986, and Martinón-Torres & Rehren 2009). Most studies of archaeological ceramic refractories focus on their roles within specific metallurgical processes. The materials themselves are rarely studied in any detail.

Past studies by Freestone and Tite (1986), Howard (1980) and more recent studies by König and Serneels (2012), and Sahlén (2013) have shown the great potential that lies in the detailed study of crucibles as objects - as opposed to the more traditional approach of treating them merely as tools or containers of reactions. In the above papers we begin to see the discussion of craft specialisation, skill, technological choice, and economic issues such as production and exchange. It is these themes that will be drawn upon in this research project to explore inter-craft activity between the ceramics and metals industry, and the complexities of the more traditional chaîne opératoire, which is used frequently to describe technological processes in archaeology. Through doing so it is also hoped that the project will address the more general organisation of Roman period metal production in Britain.

This project will use a detailed and multi-disciplinary study of Roman period crucibles in Britain to explore the themes outlined above. Detailed fabric and technical analysis will be carried out on crucibles from selected regions, using petrography, SEM and XRF.  These will be used to determine the technological choices made and how consistently they were applied; the role of specialists in crucible production; and the relationship of these practices to region, status of site and chronology.  It will further allow the extent to which non-ferrous metalworking was dependent on the ceramic industry to be evaluated.

Bayley, J and Rehren, T, 2007. ‘Towards a functional and typological classification of crucibles’ in Niece S, Hook D, and Craddock P (ed) Metals and mines: studies in archaeometallurgy. London: Archaeotype Publications, 46-55.

Freestone, I C and Tite M S, 1986 ‘Refractories in the ancient and preindustrial world’ in Kingery W D (ed) High technology ceramics past, present and future: the nature of innovation and change in ceramics technology. Ceramics and Civilisation Volume III. Westerville, OH: The American Ceramic Society, 35-63.

Howard, H, 1980, Preliminary Petrological Report on the Gussage All Saints Crucibles. British Museum Occasional Papers 17, Aspects of Early Metallurgy.

König, D and Serneels, V 2012, ‘Roman double-layered crucibles from Autun/France: a petrological and geochemical approach’, Journal of Archaeological Science 40.1: 156-165.

Martinón-Torres, M and Rehren, T 2009, ‘Post-medieval crucible production and distribution: a study of materials and materialities’, Archaeometry 51.1: 49-74.

Sahlén, D 2013, ‘Selected with care? – the technology of crucibles in late prehistoric Scotland. A petrographic and chemical assessment’, Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 4207-4221

Funding organisation


 Educational background

  • BSc (1st class with honours), Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, 2010
  • Diploma of Archaeological Studies (Distinction), University of Bradford, 2010
  • MSc in the Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials (Distinction), Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 2012

Gardner, C., Martinón-Torres, M, Topić, N., and Peković, Z., in press. Analysis of archaeometallurgical finds from a late- to post-medieval foundry in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In The Proceedings of Archaeometallurgy in Europe IV, Madrid (June 2015).

Broadley, R., Gardner, C., and Bayley, J., 2012. ‘The Church Lane assemblage: early medieval glass-working in the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral’ in Ignatiadou, D, and Antonaras, A (eds) Annales du 18e congrés de l’association internationale pour l’histoire du verre. Thessaloniki, Greece: Ziti Publishing.

Gardner, C., 2009. The Roman fort at Brough by Bainbridge: the examination of metal working debris. Research Department Report no. 16/2009. Portsmouth: English Heritage

Gardner, C., 2009. Hightown, Castleford, Yorkshire: an assessment of glass waste. Research Department Report no. 25/2009 Portsmouth: English Heritage

Gardner, C., 200.9 Chester, Cheshire: assessment of evidence for metal working from Chester Amphitheatre. Research Department Report no. 26/2009. Portsmouth: English Heritage

Recent conference presentations

Gardner, C., Müller, N.S., Kilikoglou, V., Vekinis, G., and Freestone, I. 2017. The high-temperature mechanical behaviour of double layered archaeological ceramics. Early High Technology Ceramics Meeting, UCL.

Gardner, C., Müller, N.S., Gardner, A., Freestone, I. 2017. From the table to the furnace: the adaptation of domestic pottery into metalworking crucibles in Roman period Britain. Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Durham.

Gardner, C. 2016. Any old pot will do? Metalworking crucibles on the Roman Frontier. Fitch-Wiener Labs Seminar Series, Athens.

Gardner, C., and Freestone, I. 2016. Any old pot will do? Metalworking crucibles on the Roman Frontier. International Symposium on Archaeometry, Kalamata.

Gardner, C., Freestone, I., Marshall, M. 2016. Metalworking crucibles in Roman London. International Symposium on Archaeometry, Kalamata.

Gardner, C., and Freestone, I. 2016. Roman crucibles: high technology? Early High Technology Ceramics Meeting, UCL.

Gardner, C, and Freestone, I. 2015. Innovative or resourceful? Metalworking crucibles in Roman Britain. European Meeting on Ceramics, Athens.

Gardner, C, and Freestone, I. 2015. Material choice in metalworking crucibles from Roman Britain. Archaeometallurgy in Europe, Madrid.

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