07021 - Archaeometry

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course gives the basic knowledge of the scientific methods for the study of the archaeological contexts and the anaylses of the materials, with the aim of an historical and technological characterisation of the artefacts and findings (analyses of the constituent materials and of the production techniques, provenance studies, dating). The student, at the end of the course, will be able to examine the materials, to classify them on the basis of laboratory observations, to evaluate the applicability of analytical methodologies for the study of the materials and to formulate the appropriate questions to discuss with the scientists; the student will also be able to select the materials to be analysed, to perform the sampling and to select the analyses to be done.

Course contents

Fundamentals of the scientific methodologies for archaeology: non invasive analyses- analyses on samples

General criteria for sampling of different materials

Techniques for observations and classifications of artefacts and materials: microscopy, spectroscopy, diffractometry

Dating methodologies

Provenance studies

The course will consider the analysis of case studies, with the direct involvement of the students, in the description of measurements and interpreting the results concerning:
- Sampling and sample treatment
- Optical microscopy
- Mineralogical optical microscopy
- X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy
- FTIR Spectroscopy
- X-ray diffractometry
- Thermal analyses


Teaching materials are available at virtuale.unibo.it

1. A. Castellano, M. Martini, E. Sibilia (a cura di), Elementi di archeometria. Metodi fisici per i beni culturali, Milano, Egea, 2002 - part II

2. M.J. AItken, Science-based Dating in Archaeology, Longman Archaeology Series, Longman, New York, 1990: chapter 1, paragraph 2.6, chapters 3, 4 and 6.

3. M. Milazzo, N. Ludwig, Misurare l'arte. Analisi scientifiche per lo studio dei beni culturali, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2010 - chapters 1 to 7.

4. L. Paolillo, I. Giudicianni, La Diagnostica nei Beni Culturali. Moderni Metodi di Indagine, Loghìa, Napoli, 2009 - to be agreed.

Recommended reading: J.Henderson, The Science and Archaeology of Materials: an investigation of inorganic materials, Routledge, London ; New York, 2000.


The slides presented during the lectures are available on virtuale.unibo.it

If a case study is the selected way of attending the exam (see assesment methods), a useful database of scientific papers is www.sciencedirect.com offering examples to be followed as analytical protocols. Papers can be downloaded by UniBo users, by setting the proxy (see https://sba.unibo.it/it/almare/servizi-e-strumenti-almare/connessione-da-remoto).

Some useful notes, not published by registred publishers is available on line:  Appunti di Archeometria, a cura di Stefano Gialanella. http://www.unife.it/interfacolta/lm.preistoria/insegnamenti/archeotecnologia-dei-materiali/materiale-didattico/archeometria_appunti.pdf

Preventive conservation reading is available at:

Oggetti nel tempo: principi e tecniche di conservazione preventiva, a cura dell'Istituto per i beni artistici culturali e naturali della regione Emilia-Romagna, Servizio musei e beni culturali]. - Bologna : Clueb, 2007. NOTA: scaricabile da http://online.ibc.regione.emilia-romagna.it/h3/h3.exe/apubblicazioni/t?ISBN=97888491286


Teaching methods

Lectures, examples of laboratory experiences (when possible, with portatble instruments to be used in classroom) with the involvement of the students in the realisation and the interpretation of the results. Exam of case studies.

Assessment methods

During the oral exam the candidate is asked to discuss a case study treated during the course and to plan an archaeometric study, also proposed by the student.

The exam aims to verify the following objectives:

- Know how to plan an archaeometric study

- Know the diagnostic procedure for the most important materials

- Know the main diagnostic and analytic techniques for a certain category of materials

- Know how to plan a sample collection

- Know how to evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of a technique to define its feasibility in different contexts

The student is invited to present a case study in a written form (report) or in oral form with a power point presentation to be publicly discussed with other students.The presentation, organised in sections (introduction to the object/site of interest, aims and questions, methodology of study, multidisciplinar interest) is advisable, althogh not compulsory. The student can alternatively choose a traditional oral exam (questions/answers) regarding the whole theaching program.

The student's ability to learn how to operate with confidence and autonomy within the secondary literature and the possession of a language and forms of expression appropriate to the discipline will be assessed. The acquiring of an organic view of the topics discussed in class, along with their critical consideration, a demonstration of mastery and mature expression will be recognized with good marks or excellence. Knowledge, mostly mnemonic of the subject matter, non-articulated synthesis and analysis, and/or language does not always lead to the appropriate marks ranging from discreet to sufficient. Important gaps in training, inappropriate use of language, lack of orientation within the boundaries of the topics and the bibliographic materials proposed by the course will inevitably lead to a barely sufficient grade or a negative rating.

Teaching tools

Teaching material in the form of pdf files is available at virtuale.unibo.it and reserved to the students of the course.

Some of the portable equipments of the Diagnostic Laboratory at the Department of Cultural Heritage will be used in the classroom for practical experiences (http://www.beniculturali.unibo.it/it/laboratori/laboratorio-diagnostico-per-i-beni-culturali)

Office hours

See the website of Mariangela Vandini