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Archaeometallurgy: Production and Use

Code: 44483 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
4317545 Prehistoric Archaeology OT 0 2


Frank Robert Risch

Teaching groups languages

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Frank Robert Risch
Eni Soriano Llopis

External teachers

Alicia Perea (CCHS-CSIC)
Marc Gener (CENIM)
Mercedes Murillo (Universidad de Granada)


There is no prerequisite, although a basic knowledge of prehistoric metallurgy is recommended.

Objectives and Contextualisation

Archeometallurgy focuses on the study of metallurgy in all its phases (mining, smelting, melting, finishing, use, maintenance), both from a technological, economic and social point of view. The archaeological materials that can be studied are not limited to finished products in different types of metals (copper-based, gold, silver, lead, iron), but to all the tools and instruments used (lithic, bone, ceramic), intermediate products as well like scraps and residues. The objective of this course is to acquire knowledge that allows us to understand any archeometallurgical study and to propose one of our own autonomously. For this, aspects such as the planning of objectives, the main analysis techniques actually in use (destructive and non-destructive) and the interpretation of results will be addressed. The data will be presented both theoretically and, mainly, from practical cases and current archaeological debates. The course's approach is theoretical-practical and includes practices with archaeological and mineralogical materials.

The classes given by the UAB teaching team will be combined with seminars given by researchers of recognised prestige in the field of archeometallurgy.


  • Analyse and extract significant scientific information from archaeological materials and from the results of specialist scientific studies.
  • Combine findings from different programmes of specialist analysis, identifying any contradictions and drawing conclusions
  • Critically analyse a scientific problem area on the basis of specific evidence and documents.
  • Design research projects on prehistoric archaeological sites and materials
  • Knowledge and understanding that provide a basis or opportunity for originality in developing and / or applying ideas, often in a research context.
  • Recognise and use suitable theoretical and methodological concepts for the design, planning and execution of projects on prehistoric archaeological sites and materials.
  • Recognise present-day challenges in the study of prehistoric archaeology.
  • Show rigour, responsibility and quality in research and dissemination work.
  • That students have the learning skills that enable them to continue studying in a way that will be largely self-directed or autonomous.
  • That the students can apply their knowledge and their ability to solve problems in new or unfamiliar environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts related to their field of study.
  • Work both individually and in multidisciplinary teams

Learning Outcomes

  1. Critically apply techniques for research into metallic materials in prehistoric archaeology.
  2. Critically assess the value of the different tools needed for research in archaeobotany.
  3. Knowledge and understanding that provide a basis or opportunity for originality in developing and / or applying ideas, often in a research context.
  4. Link field work and the study of prehistoric lithic resources to the specific problems of historical knowledge to be solved.
  5. Recognise and put into practice basic teamwork skills.
  6. Recognise the main challenges in the study of prehistoric metallic resources.
  7. Relate theoretical approaches to their historical context and to research methods.
  8. That students have the learning skills that enable them to continue studying in a way that will be largely self-directed or autonomous.
  9. That the students can apply their knowledge and their ability to solve problems in new or unfamiliar environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts related to their field of study.
  10. Use the specific technical vocabulary for interpretation in the field of zooarchaeology.
  11. Use the specific technical vocabulary for interpretation.


1. Prehistoric metal production: General aspects, phases and tools used
2. Analytical techniques I. Elemental composition and metallographic microstructure
3. Analytical techniques II. Lead Isotope Analysis and Metal Traceology
4. Planning, objectives and archaeometallurgical sampling
5. Case study I
6. Case study II
7. Goldsmithing and metallurgy of noble metals
8. Iron working, and iron and steel industry


Directed activities:

- Theoretical classes on theoretical and methodological aspects of the course

- Discussion and debate classes

- Seminars with renowned researchers

- Practical workshop with archaeological materials

Supervised activities:

- Tutorials and guided learning exercises

Autonomous activities:

- Research, reading papers, writing courseworks, studying

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Discussion and debate classes 3 0.12 1, 11, 6
Practical workshop with archaeological materials 3 0.12 1, 11, 9, 3
Seminars with renowned researchers 15 0.6 1, 11, 6, 5, 3
Theoretical classes on theoretical and methodological aspects of the course 15 0.6 1, 11, 6, 5, 3
Type: Supervised      
Tutorials and guided learning exercises 25 1 1, 11, 9, 8
Type: Autonomous      
Research, reading papers, writing courseworks, studying 89 3.56 1, 11, 9, 8, 6


- Practical exercises with archaeological materials and metallic minerals (35%).

- Submission of courseworks and case studies. Short exercises on specific aspects of the course contents (30%).

- Research dissertation. Final work focused on a specific aspect (methodological or practical) related to the contents of the course (35%).


This subject/module does not incorporate single assessment.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Practical tests 35% 0 0 1, 11, 9, 6
Research dissertation 35% 0 0 1, 11, 9, 8, 6, 5, 3
Submission of courseworks and case studies 30% 0 0 1, 2, 11, 10, 9, 6, 5, 4, 7


General works

Ambert, P., Vaquer, J. (dir.) 2005. La première métallurgie en France et dans les pays limitrophes. Actes du colloque international, Carcassone 28-30 septembre 2002. Mémoire XXXVII de la Société Préhistorique Française.

Dias, M.I. y Cardoso, J.L. (eds.) 2012: Actas do IX Congresso Ibérico de Arqueometría, Vol. 19. Lisboa (2011). Estudos Arqueológicos de Oeiras.

Frére-Sautot, M-Ch. (dir.) 1998. Paléometallurgie des cuivres. Actes du colloque de Bourg-en-Bresse et Beaune 17-18 octobre 1997. Montagnac: Éditions Monique Mergoil, Monographies Instrumentum 5.

Hauptmann, A. 2020. Archaeometallurgy – Materials Science Aspects. Cham: Springer, Natural Science in Archaeology. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-50367-3

Kienlin T.L., Roberts, B.W. (ed.). 2009. Metals and Societies. Studies in honour of Barbara S. Ottaway. Bonn: Universitatsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie, Band 169.

Mohen, J.P. 1992. Metalurgia prehistórica. Introducción a la paleometalurgia. Barcelona: Masson.

Montero Ruiz, I. (coord.) 2010. Manual de arqueometalurgia. Madrid: Comunidad del Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional.

Montero Ruíz, I. y Perea, A. (ed.) 2017: Archaeometallurgy in Europe IV. Bibliotheca Praehistorica Hispana, vol. XXXIII. CSIC. Madrid. ISBN : 978-84-00-10287-6

Roberts, B.W., Thornton, Ch.P. (ed.). 2014. Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective. Methods and Syntheses. New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-9017-3

Tylecote, R. F. 1986. Theprehistory of metallurgy in the British Isles: London, The Institute of Metals.

Tylecote, R. F. 1992. A history of metallurgy (2nd ed.). London: Maney, for the Institute of Materials.


Topic 1 and 2. Prehistoric metallurgical production / Planning, objectives and archaeometallurgical sampling

Craddock, P.T. 1995. Early metal mining and production. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Delibes de Castro, G., Montero Ruiz, I. (coord.) 1999. Las primeras etapas metalúrgicas en la Península Ibérica II. Estudios regionales. Madrid: Instituto Universitario Ortega y Gasset.

Gómez Ramos, P. 1999. Obtención de metales en la Prehistoria de la Península Ibérica. Oxford: BAR International Series 753.

O’Brien, W. 2015. Prehistoric copper mining in Europe: 5500-500 BC. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rovira, S., Ambert, P. 2002. Vasijas cerámicas para reducir minerales de cobre en la Península Ibérica y en la Francia meridional. Trabajos de Prehistoria 59(1), 89-195. doi: 10.3989/tp.2002.v59.i1.212  

Wang, Q., Ottaway, B.S. 2004. Casting experiments and microstructure of archaeological relevant bronzes. Oxford: BAR International Series 1331.


Topic 3. Elemental composition and metallographic microstructure

Junghans, S., Sangmeister, E., Schröder, M. 1960. Metallanalysen kupferzeitlicher und frühbronzezeitlicher Bodenfunde Europas. Berlin: Romisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Studien zu den Anfangen der Metallurgie 1.

Junghans, S., Sangmeister, E., Schröder, M. 1968. Kupfer und Bronze in der frühen Metallzeit Europas Berlin:Romisch-GermanischesZentralmuseum, Studien zu den Anfangen der Metallurgie 2.

Rovira Llorens, S., Gómez Ramos, P. 2005. Las primeras etapas metalúrgicas en la Península Ibérica III. Estudios metalográficos. Madrid.

Rovira Llorens, S., Montero Ruiz, I., Consuegra Rodríguez, S. 1997. Las primeras etapas metalúrgicas en la Península Ibérica I. Análisis de materiales. Madrid: Instituto Universitario Ortega y Gasset.

Scott, D.A. 2010. Ancient Metals: Microstructure and Metallurgy vol I. Los Angeles: Conservation Science Press.

Scott, D.A., Schwab, R. 2019. Metallography in Archaeology and Art. Cham: Springer, Cultural Heritage Science. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-11265-3


Topic 4. Lead Isotope Analysis and Metal Traceology

AAVV. 2009. Lead isotopes and archaeometallurgy. Edited by F. Cattin, B. Guénette-Beck, M. Besse and V. Serneels. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. Special Issue 1(3).

Dolfini, A., Crellin, R.J. 2016. Metalwork wear analysis: The loss of innocence. Journal of Archaeological Science 66, 78-87. doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2015.12.005

Greenfield, H.J. 1999. The origins of metallurgy: distinguishing stone from metal cut-marks on bones from archaeological sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 26, 797-808. doi: 10.1006/jasc.1998.0348

Gutiérrez, C., Soriano, I. 2008. La funcionalidad sobre material metálico. Bases y aplicaciones de estudio. En: S. Rovira Llorens, M. García-Heras, M. Gener Moret,  I. Montero Ruiz(ed). Actas del VIICongreso Ibérico de Arqueometría. Madrid, 8-10 de octubre 2007, CSIC, Madrid: 432-447

Killick, D.J., Stephens, J.A., Fenn, T.R. 2020. Geological constraints on the use of lead isotopes provenance on archaeometallurgy. Archaeometry 62(S1), 86-105. doi: 10.1111/arcm.12573

Montero Ruiz, I. 2018. La procedencia del metal: consolidación de los estudios con isótopos de plomo en la Península Ibérica. Revista d’Arqueologia de Ponent 28, 313-330. doi: 10.21001/rap.2018.28.17

Radivojević, M., Roberts, B.W., Pernicka, E., Stos-Gales, Z., Martinón-Torres, M., Rehren, T., Bray, P., Brandherm, D., Ling, J., Mei, J., Vandkilde, H., Kristiansen, K., Shennan, S.J., Broodbank, C. 2019. The provenance, use, and circulation of metals in the European Bronze Age: The state of debate. Journal of Archaeological Research 27, 131-185. doi: 10.1007/s10814-018-9123-9

Sands, R. 1997. Prehistoric Woodworking. The analysis and interpretation of Bronze and Iron Age toolmarks. London: The Institute of Archaeology, UCL, Wood in Archaeology 1.


Topic 5. Chalcolithic metallurgy of the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula

Delgado Raack, S., Escanilla Artigas, N. y Risch, R. 2014. Mazas Ocultas. Rastros de minería prehistórica en el Cerro Minado de Huércal-Overa (Almería). Cuadernos de prehistoria y arqueología de la Universidad de Granada 24: 13-44.

Escanilla, N. 2016. Recursos minerales de cobre y su explotación prehistórica en el sudeste peninsular. El valle del Guadalentín. Bellaterra: TesisDoctoral, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. https://www.tdx.cat/handle/10803/399293

Escanilla, N., Bourgarit, D. y Mille, B. 2016. Mezcla de minerales y cobre arsenical. El excepcional caso de Agua Amarga (La Fuensanta, Lorca). Alberca 14: 7–30.

Montero Ruiz, I. 1994. El Origen de la Metalurgia en el sudeste de la Península Ibérica. Almería: Instituto de Estudios Almerienses.

Rovira, S. y Renzi, M. 2017. Early technologies for metal production in the Iberian Peninsula. Materials and Manufacturing Processes 32(7–8): 756–64.

Rovira, S. y Montero Ruiz, I. 2013. Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy. En: S. Burmeister, M. Kunst, y N. Müller-Scheeßel (ed.).Metal Matters: Innovative Technologies and Social Change in Prehistory and Antiquity. Rahden/Westfalen: Verlag Marie Leidorf, pp. 231-239.


Topic 6. Archaeometallurgy of the Nebra Disk

Borg, G. 2019. In search of the golden sky: Cornwall as the source of the gold of the Bronze Age Sky Disc of Nebra. Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 2019, 38-57.

Meller, H., Michel, K. 2020. El Disco celeste de Nebra: la clave de una civilización extinta en el corazón de Europa. Barcelona: Antoni Bosch Editor.

Pernicka, E., Adam, J., Borg, G., Brügmann, G., Bunnefeld, J-H., Kainz, W., Klamm, M., Koiki, Th., Meller, H., Schwarz, R., Stöllner, Th., Wunderlich, Ch-H., Reichenberger, A. 2020. Why the Nebra Sky Disc dates to the Early Bronze Age. An overview of the interdisciplinary results. Archaeologica Austriaca 104/2020, 89-122. doi: 10.1553/archaeologia104s89


Topic 7. Goldsmithing and metallurgy of noble metalss

Bartelheim, M., Contreras Cortés, F., Moreno Onorato, A., Murillo-Barroso, M., Pernicka, E. 2012. The silver of the South of Iberian El Argar Culture: A first look at production and distribution. Trabajos de Prehistoria 69(2), 293-309. doi: 10.3989/tp.2012.12093 

Klemm, R., Klemm, D. 2013. Gold and gold mining in Ancient Egypt and Nubia. Geoarchaeology of the ancient gold mining sites in the Egyptian and Sudanese Eastern deserts. Berlin: Springer, Natural Science in Archaeology. 

Körlin, G., Prange, M., Stöllner, T. y Yalçin Ü. (ed.) 2016. From bright ores to shiny metals. Festschrift for Andreas Hauptmann on the occasion of 40 years research in Archaeometallurgy and Archaeometry.Der Anschnitt. Beiheft 29. Bochum.

Leusch, V., Armbruster, B., Pernicka, E., Slavčev, V. 2015. On the invention of gold metallurgy: the gold objects from the Varna I cemetery (Bulgaria)-Technological consequence and inventive creativity. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25, 353-376. doi: 10.1017/S0959774314001140

Meller, H.H., Risch, R., Pernicka, E. (ed.) 2014. Metalle der Macht – Frühes Gold und Silber. Metals of Power – Early Gold and Silver. Halle: Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte 11. 

Perea A. (ed.)  2011. La Fíbula Braganza. The Braganza Brooch. Madrid: Polifemo-CSIC.

Perea, A. 2018            . Contacts and transitions: Iron Age gold in the Eastern Iberian Península. En: R. Schwab, P.Y. Milcent, B. Armbruster y E. Pernicka (ed.). Early Iron Age Gold in Celtic Europe. Society, technology and archaeometry. Proceedings of the Int. Congressheld in Toulouse, 11-14 March 2015. Leidorf, pp. 357-368.

Perea, A. 2019            . On Quimbaya goldwork (Colombia), lost wax casting and ritual practice in America and Europe. En: X.L. Armada, M. Murillo-Barroso y M. Charlton (ed.).Metal, Minds and Mobility. Integrating scientific data with archaeological theory. Oxford:  Oxbow, pp. 53-66.

Perea, A. y Armbruster B. 2011. Tomb 100 at Cabezo Lucero: new light on goldworking in fourth-century BC Iberia.  Antiquity 85(327), 158-171. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00067508

Perea, A. y García Gandía, J.R. 2010. Análisis MEB e interpretación de la orfebrería fenicia de Les Casetes, Villajoyosa, Alicante. En: M.E. Saiz Carrasco, et al. (ed.). VIII Congreso Ibérico de Arqueometría. Teruel: Seminario de Arqueología y Etnología Turolense, pp. 177-192.

Perea, A. y García Vuelta, O. 2012. Gold usage. Wear marks and/or deterioration in site conditions. En: N. Meeks, C. Cartwright, A. Meek, A. Mongiatti (ed.). Historical Technology, Materials and Conservation: SEM and Microanalysis. London: Archetype, p. 86-92.

Perea, A., García Vuelta, O., Fernández Freire, C. 2010. El proyecto Au. Estudio arqueométrico de la producción de oro en la Península Ibérica. Madrid: CSIC, Bibliotheca Praehistorica Hispana XXVII.  

Perea, A., García-Vuelta, O. y Montero I. 2020. El mercurio en la producción orfebre peninsular: perspectivas arqueológicas y arqueométricas. En:Mª N. Zarzalejos Prieto, P. Hevia Gómez, L. Mansilla Plaza (coord.). El Oro Rojo en la Antigüedad. Perspectivas de investigación sobre los usos y aplicaciones del cinabrio entre la Prehistoria y el findelmundo antiguo. 28-29 Noviembre 2016. Madrid: UNED.

Perea, A., Gutiérrez-Neira, P.C., Climent-Font, A., Fernández-Esquivel, P., Rovira-Llorens, S., Ruvalcaba-Sil, J.L., Verde, A., Zucchiatti, A. 2013. Pre-hispanic goldwork technology. The Quimbaya Treasure, Colombia. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(5), 2326-2334. doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.12.033 

Perea A., Verde Casanova, A. y Gutiérrez Usillos, A.  2016. El Tesoro Quimbaya. Madrid: CSIC, Ministerio de Educación.

Perea A., Vilaça, R. y Armbruster, B. 2016. Arqueometría y contexto artesanal de los discos áureos de Fortios (Portalegre, alto Alentejo, Portugal). Trabajos de Prehistoria 73(2), 352-364. doi: 10.3989/tp.2016.12179

Soriano, I., Perea, A., Escanilla, N., Contreras Rodrigo, F., Ali Al Ali, Y.Y., Radwan Karim, M.B. y Zein, H. 2018. Goldwork technology at the Arabian Peninsula. Firs data from Saruq al Hadid Iron Age site (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 22: 1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.08.030


Tema 8. Iron work and iron and steel industry

Buchwald, V. F. 2005. Iron and Steel in ancient times. Kopenhagen: Historisk-filosofiske Skrifter 29, Det Kongelige DanskeVidenskabernes Selskab (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters).

Franco Pérez, F. J. y Gener Moret, M. 2017. Early ironwork in Biscay: Survey, excavation, experimentation and materials characterization. An integral study of the mountainside ironworks (ferrerías de monte or “haizeolak”). Materials andManufacturing Processes 32(7-8), 876-884. doi: 10.1080/10426914.2016.1221111

Gener Moret, M. 2010. Tecnología de la metalurgia del Hierro. En: I. Montero Ruiz (coord.). Manual de arqueometalurgia. Madrid: Comunidad del Madrid, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, pp. 189-232.

Kapp, L., Kapp, H., Yoshihara, Y. 1987. The Craft of the Japanese Sword. Kodansha International.

Pleiner, R., 1980. Early Iron Metallurgy in Europe. En: T. Wertime y J. Muhly, J. (ed.). The Coming of the Age of Iron. Yale: Yale University Press, pp. 375-415.

Pleiner, R., 2000. Iron in archaeology : the European bloomery smelters. Praga: Archeologický Ústav AV.

Pleiner, R. 2006. Iron in archaeology: early european blacksmiths. Praga: Archeologický Ústav AV.

Sachse, M. 1994. Damascus steel: myth, history, technology, Applications. Düsseldorf: Stahleisen.

Sarabia Herrero, F. J. 1994. Aproximación teórica y metalográfica a la reducción de hierro en la prehistoria partiendo del trabajo experimental. Trabajos de Prehistoria, 51(1), 95-109. doi: 10.3989/tp.1994.v51.i1.466

Scott, D. A., Podany, J., Considine B. B. (ed.) 1994. Ancient & Historic Metals: Conservation and Scientific Research. Getty Conservation Institute.

Smith, C. S. 1964. The discovery of Carbon in Steel. Technology and culture 5(2), 149-175.

Smith, C. S. 1981. Search for Structure: Selected Essays on Science, Art and History. Chicago: The MIT Press.

Smith, C. S. 1988. A history of metallography : the development of ideas on the structure of metals before 1890.Chicago: The MIT Press. 

Tylecote, R. F., Gilmour B. J. J. 1986. The metallography of early ferrous edge tools andedged weapons. Oxford:British Archaeological Reports, British Series 155.

Verhoeven, J. D. 2007. Steel metallurgy for the non-metallurgist.Ohio: Materials Park, ASM International.

Wagner, D. 1996. Iron And Steel In Ancient China: Second Impression, With Corrections  (handbuch Der Orientalistik/4. Abteilung, China, Bd 9). Brill Academic Publishers.

Wagner, D. B. 2007. Science and civilisation in China. Vol. 5, Chemistry and chemical technology. Part 11, Ferrous metallurgy. En: J. Needham (ed.). Science & Civilisation in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, A. 2003. The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

Williams, A. 2009. A metallurgical Study of some Viking Swords. Gladius 29, 121-184. doi: 10.3989/gladius.2009.218


No specific software is necessary.