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This workshop aimed to provide a forum for the presentation of studies on metallurgical remains excavated in urban contexts.

Urban archaeometallurgy: historical metallurgy in towns and cities

HMS Spring Meeting 2009

21st February

Institute of Archaeology, University College London
Organised by Marcos Martinón-Torres

A great number of archaeometallurgical remains are found in urban contexts. These include, among others, foundry remains, forges, goldsmith workshops, mints, assay offices or just stray finds of crucibles, slag or metal objects. Although these assemblages are increasingly studied by specialists, many remain unidentified or neglected in archaeological archives.

Urban metallurgists used skills and techniques quite different from those used by miners and smelters, and played an important technological and economic role in urban life. Their endeavours were closely related to those of other crafts, and their products were directly relevant to those living in the immediate vicinity. Thus, the documentation and study of urban metallurgical workshops and artefacts provides an interesting path to the functioning of historical towns and cities, as well as insights into relatively unexplored areas of historical metallurgy.

This workshop aimed to provide a forum for the presentation of studies on metallurgical remains excavated in urban contexts.


The spring meeting, held at The Institute of Archaeology and organised by Marcos Marinón-Torres, provided an opportunity to gain an insight into the current research regarding urban archaeometallurgy. The ten talks of the day showed the great variety of evidence found at urban metal working sites across the world and the large number of different approaches to the analysis and interpretation of the materials and sites. Below are some of my personal highlights of the day.

Christopher Lagen opened the days talks with a summary of his findings from his MSc research on medieval pewter, here he discussed the social role of pewter throughout the period, it’s changing composition and it’s rarity in the archaeological record.

The puzzling case of the ‘modern laboratory’ found near-by to the town of Kapfenberg, Austria was presented by Marcos Marinón-Torres. A number of different explanations were given for the unusual site, located in a gallery within a hill, and finally the conclusion that had been reached was explained; somebody (possibly a miner) steeling ores and crudely extracting silver, in a secluded location, to sell on for profit.

An interesting method to approaching a possible metal working site was discussed by Adi Eliyahu-Behar. In this talk Adi explained how a casting pit was identified using a range of techniques and artefact analysis including portable XRF and FTIR analysis of sediments.

The seven other talks given by Justine Bayley, Eleanor Blakelock, Geoff Egan, Myrto Georgakopoulou, Wenli Zhou, Ignacio Montero and Ziad el Murr were all very interesting and well received by a warm and friendly audience who asked numerous questions and who also offered possible explanations for questions addressed by the presenters.

Written by Carlotta Gardner for The HMS Newsletter 71
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