Home > Areas of Specialisation > The Archaeological Metallurgist

The Archaeological Metallurgist

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 30 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Archaeology Archaeometallurgist Metal

A great number of archaeologists lack professional experience in excavating and interpreting artefacts or ancient activities involved in metalworking. To avoid any potential difficulties that this may cause, field archaeologists will often consult a metallurgical specialist either on the digging site or later when assessing the evidence.

Archaeometallurgical contributions can be highly beneficial on archaeological projects. Firstly, the metals expert can identify evidence for metalworking as the excavation project is underway, which might include features such as furnaces or hearths as well as smaller items like slags, moulds, crucibles, and scrap metal. This ‘real time’ reporting will assist the site director to best use his archaeology assets. Secondly, they may contribute to describing the compositional analysis and structure of metal relics that can increase understanding of conventional data. This is most likely done post-dig as it often requires large scale equipment for analysis.

There are three main stages whereby the archaeo metallurgist is employed.

  • Excavation Preparation and Planning
  • On Site Excavation
  • Assessment and Analysis

Metal objects are frequently found on archaeological digs. However, as numerous as they are, they are yet to be included in the planning stages of many archaeology projects.

Where metal artefacts or manufacturing procedures relating to mining or metalworking can be realistically predicted, it is indispensable for an appropriate expert to be involved at the pre-dig, preparation stage. An archaeometallurgist can create a research plan that will include all archaeo metallurgical objectives, and especially develop an appropriate excavation and sampling strategy customised to the dig.

Site Excavation

Should any field staff discover features or artefacts that lead them to conclude that the area could once have been industrial in nature, (for example where very large quantities of slag are present – more than 100kg), an archaeometallurgist should immediately be invited on site. Their role will be interpretative of the features or elaborate on the artefacts so as to co-develop an ongoing strategy with the site director for further sample collection. Early consultation of unexpected finds will minimise destruction or the inability to observe and gather data productively.

However, most archaeology sites do not yield vast quantities of metal or metal by-products. Most sites will only have small metal artefacts or perhaps some micro-residues. The latter will not be recognisable to the non-expert and it is important, on significant projects, that a technical specialist is resident with the academic staff.

Assessment and Analysis

The archaeological metal specialist can contribute in a number of ways after the fieldwork is completed. As well as assessing the potential for further excavation, the archaeo metallurgist can advise on the interpretation of features that were recorded during the digging season.

Outcomes, at this stage, could include the chemical analysis of artefacts, decisions as to what items warrant additional investigation, and lectures to field staff in order to update them on the relevancies of the finds. Finally, the archaeometallurgist’s work is not completed until many reports are written and new information is disseminated to other professionals. This last task should not be under estimated as it forms the springboard to higher education and research.

By cooperating together, archaeologists and their archaeometallurgist colleagues can discover more about the metalworking processes once undertaken on ancient sites, and thereby enhance the explanation of such sites and add to the global knowledge base of historic metalworking practices.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Wonderful site. I am an avocational archeologist of sorts, working mostly in Brasil. I dreamt of being an archeologist as a boy but fate pushed me in another direction. But since retirement I have had a chance to pursue it as a hobby. Your site is a great font of information and a great 'directory' of experts in every nuance of archeology. I have sent photos of some of my finds to experts I found linked to your web pages and received replies and struck up a few discussions via emails. Thank you so much for all the work that goes into hosting a website like yours.
Laudfafnir - 5-Apr-12 @ 2:47 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Moe
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I have always love an adventurous life,I have always wished to travel to Egypt and every other ancient places to find out about…
    10 August 2018
  • Xndrdgr8
    Re: Being Aware of Fake Archaeological Artefacts
    Im looking into a small statue of Romulus and Remus possibly 8 inches wide and 6 inches long. its looks like…
    8 August 2018
  • `Andy
    Re: Tools of the Archaeologist
    Hello there, my son is keen to study Classics in 2019 and is interested in volunteering in Italy or Greece during his gap year. Would…
    7 August 2018
  • gmarth
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi I am not an expert but I have some knowledge in Archaeology. I have a Degree in Archaeology & Anthropology and I really want to…
    7 August 2018
  • Alva
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    I need more information about classical archeology so what I do which book is very useful please answer book title and author
    7 August 2018
  • Prachi
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    A very good afternoon to sir / madam im prachi studying BSc science im a 2nd year student i want to become…
    7 August 2018
  • Twista
    Re: The Mayan Indians
    I work at a plant where there are guatemalans & they do resemble the ancient Mayans.
    5 August 2018
  • Oldfossil
    Re: Archaeology as a Hobby
    I am seeking an avenue by which I might secure some sort of medal for a 90+ year old self learned “archiologist” who has made significant…
    30 July 2018
  • Dauntless
    Re: Archaeological Interpretation
    In spite of all the scientific dating methods of Archaeology this subject still remains a hard nut to crack simply because the…
    29 July 2018
  • Dhan
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    sir im studying B.E electronics communication engineering,but im very much interested in archaelogy,but…
    27 July 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ArchaeologyExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.