Institute of Archaeology


Conservation: Materials Science

This module is intended to provide students with an understanding of materials.


It focuses on pre-industrial technologies, deterioration processes, and condition of objects. Students gain first-hand experience of examination methods and analytical techniques, and have access to a wide range of equipment and facilities in the Institute's Wolfson laboratories, including optical microscopy, X-radiography, scanning electron microscopy, electron microprobe, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy.

Aims of the module

To familiarize the student with the properties, technology and decay mechanisms of pre-industrial materials and to provide them with an understanding of the analytical techniques used in identifying, characterizing and assessing their condition. To give the student an increased awareness of the important information an object can yield with analysis and technological study.


On successful completion of this module a student should:

  • Be familiar with the technologies involved in producing traditional artefacts and be able to interpret decayed material with a view to understanding its original state.
  • Have an overview of a wide range of analytical techniques for the study of artefacts and be able to choose the most appropriate method of analysis for a particular situation.
  • Be able to carry out the following analytical procedures : SEM, XRF, FTIR, Optical microscopy, Xradiography
  • Be aware of the sorts of information specialist scholars are seeking to educe from cultural heritage material.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module students should be able to demonstrate/have developed:

  • The ability to read and critically evaluate scientific reports and papers with reference to the appropriateness of the techniques employed and the presentation of the data included.
  • The application of the knowledge aquired to the broader field of Conservation practice to ensure that conservation procedures protect and reveal the information that an artefact carries and that information is not destroyed or obscured.
  • The ability to produce and a report containing scientific data appropriately presented and interpreted.

Teaching Methods

The module is taught over the first two terms, through weekly lectures, demonstrations and practical classes (all are compulsory). Where required small group sessions will be arranged to give students greater familiarity with some of the techniques covered in the module. Teaching will take place in the conservation laboratory, practical sessions will be held in the conservation laboratories or in the appropriate area of the basement labs.

Module information

For registered students


  • Runs every year