From Mine to Metal, a day out with FLAME and the Pitt Rivers Museum

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(re)made: from mine to metal!

On Saturday 9th June, FLAME’s Dr Peter Hommel and Samantha Bowring led a team of able helpers from the Oxford University School of Archaeology “from Mine to Metal”! Taking over the Pitt Rivers museum, the team led a series of activities i intended to introduce members of the public to various aspects of ancient metallurgy, the history of archaeometallurgy, and the direction of current research in Oxford.

The day was funded by a University of Oxford Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund grant, secured by Dr Hommel (with additional support from Studiocanal, Aardman Animations and The Oxford Charcoal Company), and was based in and around the Pitt Rivers Museum and Natural History Museum.

Highlights included the chance to handle minerals, ores and real archaeological artefacts with experts to hand to answer visitors’ questions. Thanks to Dr Robert Knight of the NHM, visitors had the chance to see native copper, sky-iron, and experience the varied colour of ores. They also were able to explore the history of archaeological analysis through a range of materials loaned from the Coghlan and Tylecote archives. On top of this, there were arts and crafts, prehistory themed colouring, and a chance to win a range of Early Man themed goodies (courtesy of Aardman and Studiocanal). Meanwhile, the Pitt Rivers lecture room was transformed into a Bronze Age mine where those that dared crawled through dark and bumpy tunnels lit only by glowworms and the etherial glimmerings of the tunnels’ walls. Visitors challenged themselves to enter in search of the metallic ores hidden within the depths, winning a chance to be entered into our prize draw. Participants were mostly children with or without their accompanying adults. However, we had a few unaccompanied adults too!  Once they had entered, these older participants unwittingly demonstrated why we think children would have been such an integral part of most ancient mining operations; it often took several minutes for them to struggle back out!

Throughout the day, Dr Peter Hommel and Dr. Chris Green tirelessly demonstrated the process of smelting, transforming malachite into copper and casting and recasting small objects to demonstrate one of the most magical properties of metal. This was an incredibly popular spectacle with many visitors returning staying to watch the whole process and even returning later in the day to see different stages of the process. Over the course of the day we produced just under half a kilo of copper, which we distributed to the audience.

In the evening, another smelting and casting session took place, this time aimed at adults and teenagers. Members of the public had a chance for some hands on experience pumping bellows and casting their own small axe head.

One thing our display clearly demonstrated is how much easier it is to cast an object by melting down some existing metal compares with getting new metal from rock!

 

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From Mine to Metal, a day out with FLAME and the Pitt Rivers Museum

CAA International 2018

Between the 19th and 24th March, John and Mary attended the Computer Applications in Archaeology annual conference, this year held in Tübingen in southern Germany. Laura also presented work she had completed with FLAME before moving to the British Museum last year.

Tübingen by night
Tübingen by night

The CAA meeting is a place where all aspects of digital archaeology are represented and is an exciting forum in which to discover and discuss approaches to the collection, analysis and representation of digital data. The organisation is made up from members from across the world and being able to tap into this pool expertise is a great resource.

Mary and John reported on their work using arrays, to represent both the temporal and spatial changes in the metal chemistry, evident within the FLAME dataset. Mary emphasised how it is the change and connectivity between states which is of greatest interest and discussed the challenges the team face in modelling these aspects effectively, in four or more dimensions. Following the presentation, useful questions and discussions arose, with lots of input and suggestions provided regarding possible representations of, and experience with, multi-dimensional data. Hearing from other researchers who had faced similar challenges with equally large datasets was a very rewarding experience and the FLAME team were able to make some very useful contacts at the meeting.

Geißenklösterle
Geißenklösterle

Tübingen is a beautiful medieval town with cobbled streets a castle. It is not far from the Swabian Jura, where a new World Heritage Site was inscribed in 2017. Mary was also lucky enough to be able to visit the caves of Hohler Fels and Geißenklösterle, with the excavators, and to visit the Blaubeuren museum, where much of the wonderful Upper Palaeolithic art from the caves is housed (c. 35000 years old).

CAA International 2018

FLAME Meeting, 4th September, Ulaanbaatar

FLAME is pleased to confirm that this year, our open meeting will be at The Mongolian Academy of Sciences in Ulaanbaatar. We are very excited to be going to Ulaanbaatar as this key location through which metal objects flowed throughout the bronze age is a priority for gathering new data. The event is being hosted by our project partner Tsagaan Turbat.
The meeting will be on 4th September beginning at 10.00am.
Confirmed speakers include: N-O. Erdene-Ochir , G. Eregzen; Yu. Esin, P. Hommel, G. Hsu, L.Ishtseren, M. Pollard, S. Solongo, S. Tengis and T. Turbat.
For further details please contact the FLAME office on flame@arch.ox.ac.uk

FLAME Meeting, 4th September, Ulaanbaatar

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson awarded Charles Lang Freer Medal

Congratulations to Professor Dame Jessica Rawson who has been awarded the Charles Lang Freer Medal for her lifetime work in Chinese art and archaeology. The medal will be presented in a private ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Saturday 28th October. She will, at the same time, deliver a lecture for the occasion.

Read more at: https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/news/dame-jessica-rawson-awarded-charles-lang-freer-medal

 

 

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson awarded Charles Lang Freer Medal

Archaeological Chemistry, a new edition of a classic book

The Royal Society of Chemistry has now published a third edition of ‘Archaeological Chemistry’ co-written by FLAME’s Mark Pollard. The book has been updated to encompass the latest developments in the field including a new chapter on proteomics. This book is an ideal starting place for understanding the role of chemistry in Archaeology and how it has enabled archaeologists to determine the origin of and learn more about organic and inorganic finds.

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The world has changed yet again since the preface to the second edition was written in 2007, and immeasurably so since 1995. Analytical instrumentation continues to improve in terms of micro-sampling, multi-elemental sensitivity, rapidity of throughput, and availability. Mass spectrometry, in all its forms, has been revolutionized over the last ten years. The mantra now, for better or worse, is ‘non-destructive’ and ‘portable’, and the current generation of instruments, including some equipment with multi-technique capability can often be taken to the object, rather than vice versa. Analytical capability in the field analysis of biomolecular residues in archaeological material in particular has changed beyond all recognition, especially for ancient DNA and palaeoproteomics.’

From the preface to the third edition

 

See here for further information

Archaeological Chemistry, a new edition of a classic book

What’s in a name?

As we add more and more data to our database a conundrum arises. When using historic data from a variety of sources there are many different ways of classifying and naming objects. The team met to see if a common typology could easily be adopted only to find this is a surprisingly complex issue.  For example, is an axe a tool or a weapon? The designation and classification of an artefact will vary depending on context, reporting and wider research aims.

In the meantime, we are all going to have a good think about this and reconvene after Christmas.

What’s in a name?

Remember the day we caught the train…

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View from the train

This was actually a no work day as several team members took the train from Moscow to St Petersburg. It was a great opportunity to see the changing landscape and get a flavour of modern Russia. For those of us used to British trains, it was a real treat to travel on a Russian train. They are very fast and comfortable and even have earphones if you want to watch the film showing. Through the windows we saw the huge blocks of flats and cosmopolitan metropolis give way to a vast flat  landscape with thin trees. As we travelled north snow began to appear until we were passing through a frosty snow covered landscape, not something that those of us from Oxford often get to see.

Every now and then we passed through large towns which were once again filled with large modern blocks of flats, and then villages which were clusters of wooden built chalets with smoke pouring from the chimneys. At first they lay snugly nestled amongst the vast green forests but later in the journey formed part of beautiful snowy landscapes.

 

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Believe it or not this is the train station at St Petersburg

We arrived in St Petersburg in the early afternoon and between us did a mix of sightseeing, working on abstracts and meetings.

Remember the day we caught the train…