metalworking experiment

About this image

Raking charcoal from an experimental iron smelting furnace © Historic England

Ancient Technology

Our research is available online through the Historic England reports series, and in site reports and journals. We provide advice on best practice, and have published guidance on:

We conduct and commission scientific research into archaeological objects, mainly metal and glass, and also the waste (slag) from their production. We use scientific techniques to work out how, where, when and why different materials were made in the past.

Microstructure of iron slag
SEM image of prehistoric ironworking slag from Trevelgue Head, Cornwall © Historic England

Analytical equipment

The scientific equipment in our laboratory includes:

  • Scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive spectrometer (SEM-EDS)
  • X-ray fluorescence spectrometers
  • X-ray diffractometer

Reference collections

We hold several thousand samples taken from archaeological artefacts, tools and production waste from metal and glass manufacture. This research collection is available for study by prior arrangement.

Our collections also include a range of slags and other production waste, which are used for teaching and training.

Who we are

Sarah Paynter provides expertise in ancient technology within the Archaeological Conservation and Technology team.

We work closely with special interest groups such as:

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