Institute of Archaeology


Archaeometallurgy: Mining and Extractive Technology

The aims of this module are to give students a fundamental understanding of the development and spread of mining and metallurgy within their geological and archaeological contexts.


The module 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, from the Neolithic up to the Renaissance, and include current research projects carried out at the Institute.

On successful completion of this module students should be acquainted with the general trends of technical and social development in relation to metals. Furthermore, they should have acquired an in-depth understanding of the fundamental physical principles of metallurgy at a level sufficient to undertake guided research in ancient metallurgy, e.g. for their MSc thesis. With a view to being possibly confronted, during later professional practice, with material related to metallurgical activities, students should understand the general outlines of regional and chronological developments in metallurgy. They should recognise relevant evidence such as slags and technical ceramics. In particular, they should be able to pose educated questions leading to a scientific investigation of such remains, and be able to critically evaluate and interpret different types of results and reports following archaeometric studies.

The module is taught by lectures and some hand-on seminars and lab tutorials.

Teaching Methods

The module is taught through seminars and lectures. In addition, laboratory sessions will be arranged to give students greater familiarity with the materials, methods and techniques covered in the module. Sessions have weekly recommended readings, which students will be encouraged to have done in advance of the lecture, to be able to follow and actively contribute to the discussion.

Module information

  • Code: ARCL0098 
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Michael Charlton
  • Prerequisite: This module does not have a prerequisite; however, a basic understanding of inorganic chemistry is helpful.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Running in 2021-22