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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 the various methods and techniques from exact sciences used to study the life history of artefacts. These analytical techniques are discussed and provide the tools for characterising and provenancing archaeological materials. Students are also familiarised with the advantages, pitfalls and practical implementation of microscopic and chemical techniques in scientific research.

The lectures will address the material properties and the analytical techniques (eg. XRF, NAA, XRD, etc.) used to provenance and characterise inorganic material remains (ceramics, paint and pigments, stone, metal).
Also, the main techniques used to analyse organic residues (lipids, fuel, etc.) will be introduced and debated, e.g. chromatography.

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 a study;

  • Knowledge of current microscopic and chemical techniques relevant in art, and historical and archaeological materials;

  • Knowledge of residue and provenance analyses of stone tools, glass, metals and pottery.


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

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Written examination (40%);

  • Paper (40%);

  • Presentation (20%).

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the 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 is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact dhr dr. D.J.G. Braekmans.