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
  • Usha
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I completed my post graduation from ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology from India. Would you please give me any…
    23 August 2019
  • geoff
    Re: Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?
    Hello I have found a large debris field of rocks in my forest and some of the rocks look like they have had some…
    21 August 2019
  • Kritter
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    I would like to see your response to Babs comment please
    19 August 2019
  • Rol
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    Hello there, I did general archaeology in my undergraduate degree at UDSM and i think that gave me an idea of what type of an archaeologist…
    19 August 2019
  • Fox
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Greetings, I am an archaeologist and it is a very though career, I must say. While I am not able to continue my career as an…
    14 August 2019
  • Ganesh
    Re: Being Aware of Fake Archaeological Artefacts
    Very much informative post in India there r many sites where you get lots of artifact a genuine one at…
    10 August 2019
  • Minku
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    I am 25 years old And I can't decide what types of archaeologist I want to be
    31 July 2019
  • Noah
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi I am 17 and a student living in Cornwall. I am hoping to study archaeology or ancient history at university and would love the…
    30 July 2019
  • prof
    Re: Types of Archaeology
    hey am Malvin am from Zimbabwe, am an archaeology graduate. Archaeology is very much interesting, there are so many types of archaeology cox…
    26 July 2019
  • Babs36
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    Hi, I live fairly close to known Indian mounds in the Midwest. they have artifacts that date back to 800bc. They have also found the skeleton…
    24 July 2019