Archaeometallurgy Laboratory

Led by Vanessa Workman | Email:

Archaeometallurgy Lab.

The Archaeometallurgy Laboratory at CAAM facilitates research and teaching on ancient and historical metal objects and their production. Research centers on material characterization, pyro-technologies, and various technological and craft processes related to the production and use of metals throughout history.

The laboratory is equipped for the analysis of metals and a host of materials from traditional metal production processes (e.g., ore, ceramics, slag). Equipment to prepare samples for standard metallographic analysis is available in the Wet Lab. Instrumentation for optical and electron microscopy and chemical analyses sits across the hall in the Archaeometallurgy Lab, a shared space for the characterization of organic and inorganic archaeological materials. The Archaeometallurgy lab also houses an extensive sample collection representing much of the archaeometallurgical research performed over the years at the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. The collection is used regularly in CAAM courses and by scholars for research and training.

Current Research Projects

The lab is also part of the CAAM Pyrotechnology Research Group (CPRG).

One of the finest resources in the Archaeometallurgy lab is the mounted sample collection inherited from the influential work of MASCA and ongoing archaeometallurgical research in CAAM. The sizable collection holds samples of metal objects, mostly copper and iron alloys, and production artifacts that represent metal production technologies throughout the history of metalworking on a global scale. The collection is used regularly as a teaching resource in CAAM courses and in continued analysis by researchers worldwide.

The Archaeometallurgy lab is in the process of building an interactive collection of materials representing the technologies and materiality of metal production. The collection is composed of representative, ethnographic, and experimental materials, such as ores, technical ceramics (crucibles, tuyeres, furnace linings), and slag. This assemblage complements the large body of metal samples held in the mounted collection. These materials are used in course work to provide an instructive and tangible way to interact with complex technologies of the past and allow students to become familiar with materials that are often rare in the archaeological record.

  • Zeiss AxioScope A1 reflected/transmitted light microscope equipped with AxioCam ICc5 camera and AxioVision SE64 software
  • Motic Panthera TEC-BF microscopes (2)- reflected light with dark field polarizer
  • Nikon Optiphot Metallographic microscopes (2) – reflected light with dark field polarizer
  • JEOL JCM-6000 Scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS)
  • Variable speed precision diamond saw for sample preparation
  • Dremel tools for sample extraction
  • Mounting equipment for resin block samples
  • Buehler Ecomet 3000 variable speed grinder/polisher for metallographic sample preparation
  • Buehler MICROMET II Microhardness tester, model B-M83043
  • Fume hood for sample preparation and chemical etching
  • Thermocouples for temperature monitoring in experimental work
  • Library of reference books for archaeometallurgy, metallography, and material science
  • Material World in Archaeological Science — ANTH 2221, CLST 3302, ARTH 0221, NELC 2960, ANTH 5221, NELC 6920
  • Archaeometallurgy Seminar — ANTH 5252, AAMW 5520, CLST 7314, NELC 6950
  • Mining Archaeology — ANTH 3219, CLST 3314, NELC 4950, ANTH 5219, CLST 5314
  • Independent Studies
  • CAAM Intensive Course Series: Mining and Archaeometallurgy