Department of Archaeology

Archaeological Materials Laboratories

The Department has a series of dedicated archaeological materials laboratories that are used for research, analysis, teaching, and other practical exercises. They provide ample space for laying out archaeological specimens. The principal focus of research in the laboratories is the scientific analysis of ancient inorganic materials, particularly metals, ceramics and glass.


Main Archaeological Materials Laboratory

The laboratory includes a high-temperature furnace used for experimental reconstructions of ancient pyrotechnology, as well as a fume hood and materials for the preparation of mounted specimens for optical microscopy and electron microprobe analysis. All our students have the opportunity to undertake research in this laboratory, particularly during the practical teaching in Ancient Metallurgy: Archaeology and Experiment.

Nottingham students crushing ores, ...

... charging crucibles, and ...

... loading the furnace for metal smelting experiments.





Microscope Laboratory

The departmental microscope laboratory is used for research and the teaching of both archaeological materials and bioarchaeology. This facility has received much recent investment and includes equipment that is part of the Showing-Seeing Centre. Our facilities include:

  • Olympus BX51 reflected and transmitted light microscope, including attachments for polarisation to study ceramic thin-sections 
  • Olympus BX41 transmitted light microscope 
  • Olympus SZX10 stereo zoom microscope 
  • Reichert inverted stage metallurgical microscope 
  • Colourview I 3.2 Megapixel colour digital camera which attaches to the above microscopes 
  • Computer with extra-large screen and specialised software for digital image viewing, capture and analysis

Microstructure of an experimental copper-antimony alloy smelted by students.

Internal structure of acacia charcoal.

Student examining the metallographic microstrucuture of an experimentally produced artefact.


Electron Microprobe Laboratory

This laboratory houses the departmental JEOL JXA-8200 electron microprobe. This facility is used both to support research within the Department and as a central teaching resource for students learning about archaeological materials. Many of our recent undergraduate and postgraduate Archaeological Materials students have used the electron microprobe for their dissertation research, and there is a growing PhD research group for whom the electron microprobe is central to their studies. The microprobe is the major element of the University’s Microanalysis Research Facility.

The departmental JEOL JXA-8200 electron microprobe

Elemental mapping of the decoration on Nottingham salt-glazed stoneware


Our teaching and learning approach

Ancient materials are taught using practical and theoretical approaches and our students receive a broad grounding in the techniques fundamental to the analysis of ancient technologies. As with our research, we integrate scientific and social analyses in order to address wider socio-cultural questions. Archaeological materials form one of the core subjects of an undergraduate degree in Archaeology at Nottingham and many undergraduates choose to specialise in archaeological materials in their third year. Many students come to Nottingham for the MSc in Archaeological Materials or to undertake PhD research.


Commercial work

We offer a commercial analytical service, providing high-quality analysis of inorganic archaeological materials by means of electron microprobe analysis. This work is undertaken by the Microanalysis Research Facility.



Department of Archaeology

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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