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Laboratory work for Material Culture Studies


Admission requirements

Admission to the MSc-programme Material Culture Studies (only possible if Material Culture Studies is the first specialisation).


Introductory lectures on the specialisations possible within the MSc Material Culture Studies:
1) technological, microwear and residue studies by means of microscopy
2) ceramic petrography and technology
3) experimental archaeology

Throughout the year: practical sessions on different categories of material culture like ceramics, stone and organic materials and laboratory training.

Tutorials will give you the basic knowledge and skills to carry out the analytical work for your thesis topic. You will also make a start with the laboratory analysis of your thesis material. You can choose one of the following directions, depending on your choice of thesis topic:

1) The microscopic study of objects reveals traces of manufacturing, use and treatment of objects that are not visible with the naked eye. You will learn to use stereomicroscopes, incident light microscopy and transmitted light microscopes to distinguish these traces and residues, using the extensive reference collection of experimentally used objects made of stone, bone, coral, shell and other raw materials.
2) Experimental archaeology is crucial for an improved understanding of object biographies. By carrying out experiments in a scientific context, various hypotheses about the production, treatment and use of materials can be tested. The experimental center at Huize Horsterwold (a reconstruction of a Stone Age house), the Laboratory for Material Culture Studies in Leiden and facilities of Materials Sciences at Delft University are at your disposal.
3) The ceramic petrography course introduces you to the methodology and application of thin section petrography of archaeological pottery. By using principles of optical mineralogy and petrology, archaeological ceramic petrography focuses on provenance issues as well as on the reconstruction of ancient artisanal technology.

Course objectives

  • Familiarity with analytical laboratory techniques used for the description and technological analysis of a range of artefacts;

  • Increased understanding of how analytical laboratory techniques can provide detailed information about artefact biographies.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Formal lectures;

  • Practical training in artefact analysis and description (round the table) and familiarising students with the interconnectivities between different chaînes opératoires;

  • Individual or small-group tutorials in the laboratory as a preparation for the empirical work for the students’ thesis topic;

  • Reading literature relevant to students' specialisation.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • Lectures (0.5 ec);

  • Practicals and lab work (2.5 ec);

  • Lab report of 2,000 words (1 ec);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ec).

Assessment method

Laboratory report, including a critical evaluation of the methodology employed (100%).

A retake of the report is only allowed when the attendance requirements have been met.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.


For more information about his course, please contact dr. M.B. Roussel.


Compulsory attendance.