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Institute of Archaeology

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Artefact Production and Exchange

Humans are one of the few animal species to use artefacts, and these culturally-invested objects are one of our main sources of archaeological information.

Islamic glass

Artefact styles can be used to identify analytically useful cultural groupings in the absence of other kinds of evidence, as well as networks of cultural learning and patterns of cultural inheritance. Artefact distributions can indicate trade routes, particular kinds of consumer or producer, the spatial extent of human activity areas such as settlements and cemeteries, or in some cases the influence of political boundaries. Further traces of wear can suggest how an artefact was later used or how it might have been transformed and transported after deposition in the ground. To some extent, we can therefore build up a whole 'biography' behind a particular artefact from the moment that it was created to the point at which it was recovered from the archaeological record.

The Wolfson Archaeological Science laboratories are outstanding and support world-leading research in materials analysis. Materials Analysis in Archaeology aims to characterise the materials used by past people, using approaches adapted from the natural sciences. This data is then used to reconstruct human interaction with the environment and environmental conditions, as well as production and manufacturing technologies, trade contacts, and movement of ideas and materials across time and space.

Institute research strengths continue in archaeometallurgy, and early glass with a focus on the origins of technological innovations. Institute staff also work on textiles, on provenancing wooden artifacts, on ceramic production and use, and on the conservation of ceramics, wall paintings and metals (O’Grady). Trade and exchange in specialised economies are investigated - early commodity branding, early writing and seal use, and Roman coinage.

Projects