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Techniques of artefact analysis


Admission requirements

Admission to the MSc-programme Material Culture Studies.


The focus of this course lies on various methods and techniques from the exact sciences used to study the life cycle of artefacts. The analysis of both organic and inorganic substances are discussed, providing the necessary tools to characterise and provenance archaeological materials, and to determine their past function and use.
You will be familiarised with the advantages, pitfalls and practical implementation of microstructural and chemical techniques in archaeological research.

The lectures address the relation between the material properties of ancient artefacts (stone, ceramic, glass, metal) and the analytical techniques used to provenance and characterise them. Also, the major techniques used to study organic residues will be introduced.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of and insight in the analytical study of various categories of artefacts focusing on the various techniques, processes and methodologies from the exact sciences that are essential for such study;

  • Knowledge of current microscopic and chemical techniques relevant in the study of objects of art and archaeological materials.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

  • 7 lectures (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written examination (50%);

  • Paper of 2,500 words (50%).

Both the exam and essay can be retaken.
Compensation between the grades in NOT allowed.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

Students are assumed to be familiar with the following source:

  • M. Pollard, C. Batt, B. Stern & S.M.M. Young, “Some Basic Chemistry for Archaeologists” (2007) in: Analytical Chemistry in Archaeology. Cambridge, pp. 215-320;

  • P. Degryse & D. Braekmans, “Elemental and Isotopic Analysis of Ancient Ceramics and Glass” (2014) in: H.D. Holland & K.K. Turekian (eds), Treatise on Geochemistry, 2nd edition, vol. 14, pp. 191-207. Oxford: Elsevier;

  • B. Sillar & M.S. Tite, “The Challenge of ‘Technological Choices’ for Materials Science Approaches in Archaeology” (2000) in: Archaeometry 42: 2-20;

  • Recently published articles, to be announced.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. P.A.I.H. Degryse.