Institute of Archaeology


Structure and deterioration of craft materials

This course introduces craft materials and their manufacture with the intention of connecting these processes to observed deterioration mechanisms.

Lectures will focus on understanding materials and their manufacture through exposure to artefacts (UCL collections) and art objects (privately owned), as well of discussion of how their physical/chemical properties are directly related to observed degradation. Laboratory sessions will provide students with the opportunity to practically manufacture traditional craft materials (e.g. pigments and dyes, enamels, plaster, cyanotypes, etc.) and/or assess structure or deterioration. Through lectures and laboratories, students will define the relationships between craft material and degradation through assessment of associated technology and underlying chemistry.

Course Aims

  • To introduce craft materials, their method of manufacture and associate deterioration mechanisms
  • To provide an in-depth analysis of introduced artefacts by linking their chemical composition to technology and deterioration
  • To provide students with the opportunity to understand and assess craft materials through practical laboratories designed to recreate specific materials or test chemical principles/relationships
  • To provide students with the opportunity to understand and assess artefacts and degradation through observation and handling of selected artefacts from UCL and private collections

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand various craft materials and link their composition and technology to expected degradation processes
  • Be able to identify specific qualities and characteristics that suggest the method of manufacture and potential deterioration of observed artefacts and craft materials
  • Understand specific technological choices made during manufacturing and production that affect artefact function, appearance, and degradation
  • Know how to relate craft material technology, method of manufacture and composition to deterioration mechanisms

Teaching Methods

This course will be taught through 20 hours of seminar sessions that take the form of a lecture. This will be followed by time devoted to handling and discussing artefacts that illustrate the core topics presented during each seminar session. Teaching will be geared towards interactive student discussion and enables brief presentations made by students. Additionally, there will be 10 hours of practical laboratories where students will make craft materials and/or test chemical principles/relationships.

Course information

For registered students


  • Not Running in 2020/21