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Techniques of Artefact Analysis


Admission requirements

Admission to the MSc-programme with focus area 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, organic materials) and the analytical techniques used to provenance and characterise them.

Set-up of the course

7 classes of 2 hours, discussing techniques in the first three, applications to materials in the next three, and a Q&A session in the final class.

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);

  • 250 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;

  • Recently published articles, to be announced.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


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