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Ancient urban metallurgy in the Eastern Mediterranean

Research project conducted by Frederik Rademakers, Institute of Archaeology, University College London

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This project focuses on the study of metallurgical crucible assemblages, which are approached through a number of case studies from the Eastern Mediterranean: Qantir – Pi-Ramesse (Ramesside Egypt, 13th century BC), Gordion (Achaemenid Phrygia, 6th-4th century BC) and Serdica/Nicopolis/Philippopolis ((Late) Roman Bulgaria, 2nd-4th century AD).

The main research material consists of crucible remains, and to a lesser extent metal remains, which are investigated using optical microscopy and SEM(-EDS) to reconstruct the technological processes and material use. Metal prills are extracted from the crucibles for lead isotope analysis, to be related to lead isotope analysis of metal remains (scrap, ingots and objects). 
For each of the three case studies, the aim is to reconstruct and contextualise the metallurgical activities. This involves the reconstruction of the technical processes, material use and the organisation of metal production both on the site and regional scale. No relation exists between these sites and each case study stands on its own: results from the technological reconstruction are interpreted within their particular archaeological and regional/historical context.

The overarching goal of this research is to evaluate methodological approaches to the study of crucibles and crucible assemblages by comparing the results for these three examples, not in terms of technology, but by evaluating the influence of varying crucible typology, preservation, abundance, contextual information, and sample availability. Despite their informative value and common occurrence in (urban) archaeological contexts, crucible assemblages are not often studied in detail and a general approach for researchers has not been defined. Therefore, a final aim is to formulate more general recommendations for examining ancient crucible assemblages.


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