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Our annual Research in Progress meeting held at Brunel University

Research in Progress Meeting

13th November 2015

Brunel University
Organised by Lorna Anguilano

The Research in Progress meetings are aimed at a wide variety of contributors, from historical and archaeological metallurgists to excavators, historians and economists. Presentations were given on a range of topics, from a variety of speakers in a friendly environment.

The HMS prize is awarded for the best presentation by a student at the meeting was awarded to William Hawkes for his presentation ‘Polishing our performance and winning silver.’


Abstract book



Photo Gallery


The past Research in Progress 2015, organized by Lorna Aguilano and held at Brunel University, once again proved to be a fantastic event where attendants were able to witness firsthand the latest results and investigations regarding a large range of topics, from mining to metal production as well as novel techniques and proposals for metal preservation, experimental archaeology and historical research both from the UK and abroad.

One of the most interesting aspects of this conference was the presentation of various dissertations related to new methods and techniques for both archaeometallurgical research and metal preservation. Among these papers were those of Samantha Rowe (University of Huddersfield) who presented her first results on metal artifact decay in plough soils in the UK, assessing the important relation between soils and metal artifacts to understand the different conditions under which metals decay and therefore being able to present different strategies for the recovery and preservation of metallic objects.

William Hawkes (West Dean Collage) presented an outstanding dissertation on the qualities of Saponin for silver cleaning and preservation compared to the traditional use of acidified thiourea. By the comparative analysis, having used XRF for superficial chemical analysis, of sterling silvers before and after having been treated with both products, he was able to demonstrate how Saponin was much less corrosive to silver surfaces as well as being cheaper, less dangerous and less aggressive for preservation treatments. His presentation was awarded the HMS prize to best presentation and here we would like to congratulate him on his outstanding work.

Within this same line regarding application of new methods and techniques we must also highlight the dissertations of Alan Williams and David Edge (Wallace Collection Museum) who presented the use of neutron diffraction for the study of swords as a non-invasive technique rather than using the traditional method of metallography; as well as that of Michael Carlton (University Collage of London), who presented the latest results of the IRONWORKS projects, centering on the importance of data quality and processing data, and whose work has been fundamental for establishing a correct analytical protocol for slag analysis, stressing the importance of slag analysis for understanding metallurgical production processes.

One of my personal favorites was the dissertation presented by John Boothroyd (Oxford Archaeology) on the latest finds of Roman iron production in the UK, not only because of the impressive contexts they have been able to document at the Bexhill to Hastings road (large iron furnaces and slag heaps, evidence of large scale iron production), but because the presentation of results from urban archaeological excavations tend to be missing in many conferences and seminars, or are usually overpassed by long running research projects. This presentation demonstrates the importance urban archaeology has in order to advance in archaeological research and historical knowledge and proves how important it is for urban archaeology to have representation in these types of events since, in many occasions, it is the front-runner of archaeological research.

It is also very important to highlight the presence of many international researchers who presented us with some the latest research that is being carried abroad; in this case being specifically noted the presence of our Italian colleagues Elisa Grassi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) who spoke about metallurgical production in sacred contexts from the Capitolium of Brescia, and Vasco La Salvia (D´Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara) in collaboration with Marco Valenti, Stefano Bertoldi, Vittorio Fronza, Manuele Putti and Lorna Aguilano, who presented novel information on metallurgical activities documented at some sites in Central and Southern Italy.

These are just some of the 15 outstanding presentations we were able to enjoy, such as those presented by Marta Matosz and Julio M. del Hoyo Melendez on the analysis of dinarii from Poland minted by the early Piasts; Eleanor Blakelock who presented the results of the analysis of the silver objects from the Staffordshire Hoard; Peter King with new results regarding the transition of puddling to the Bessemer and Open Hearth processes in the UK during the 19th century; David Cranstone, on finery steelmaking in the area around the Forest of Dean from the second half of the 16th century A.D and throughout the 17th; Yvette Marks, on the origin and latest ideas on the role of itinerant smiths for the transmission of metallurgy during the late Neolithic and the Bronze Age; Patrick Cropper, with a new approach on the study of the lack of prehistoric metallurgical remains in the UK from the field of experimental archaeology; David Sables, with novel information on the important role that mining played within the monastic life at the Cistercian Abby of Strata Florida; and Peter Claughton who presented the latest discoveries of lead and silver production at Combe Martin.

The conference ended with a visit to the Experimental Techniques Center at Brunel University where we were offered an outstanding tour of the facility with first hand explanations of the different techniques available at their center and their application to archaeology in general and archaeometallurgy in particular.

Finally, we would once again like to congratulate the organizers and Brunel University, as well as all the speakers for a fantastic day where attendees, students, new researchers and established scholars were able to discuss some of the latest research in worldwide archaeological and historical metallurgy. I would personally like to stress here the importance of these events held by the HMS which give an opportunity for both students and the scientific community to present the latest research that is being carried out worldwide regarding metallurgy and that leads us, step by step, to a better comprehension of the role of metals and metallurgy throughout human history. Once again congratulations to William Hawkes for winning the HMS prize with his outstanding presentation “Polishing our performance and wining silver” and to Lorna Aguilano and the HMS community for organising such a successful day.

Written by Charles Bashore Acero for The Crucible 91
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