Page 1. The Field of Archaeochemistry


The aim of the papers presented here is to explain the actual role of archaeochemistry in the large field of archaeology.

Simply said, archaeochemistry is the combination of archaeology with chemistry. Many people think that the role of chemistry is only that of analyzing samples taken from finds.


Archaeochemistry as part of Archaeometry


Archaeometry covers the whole field of combinations between archaeology and natural sciences including engineering sciences. Other branches of archaeometry according to this definition are archaeometallurgy, archaeomining, astroarchaeology, anthropology, archaeophysics, archaeomedicine, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, industrial archaeology and others. Be always aware that there are no sharp dividing lines between these areas of work.

A very special but related field is that of experimental archaeology. This technique tries to explain archaeological finds of all kinds, e. g. things like weapons, textiles, tools, vessels, boats, etc., also houses, gates, fortifications, by reproducing them. Old processes are investigated by means of making replicas and working with them.


Limited knowledge of archaeologists must lead to interdisciplinary work


Up to a certain degree, depending on the special education or knowledge of the archaeologist, he will be able to handle the special requirements but for sure he will reach sooner or later his limits. This is the latest point to start with interdisciplinary activities. Work together with a specialist in the other discipline will open a wide field of new ideas, interpretations and possibilities for further investigations. It will prohibit embarrassing mistakes in the respective publications. The well-versed reader will identify them easily.

It is of basic importance for interdisciplinary work that the partners are not only interested in the respective other discipline, but also understand the specific expressions, the specific language and are ready for fair cooperation. The best qualification for archaeochemical work is to have studied both subjects, archaeology and chemistry – but in practice this will be an exception.


Archaeochemistry is more than analyzing samples of archaeological finds


The object is rather to investigate and interprete all kinds of archaeological finds which seem to have some aspect of chemistry or chemical technology by means of general chemical knowledge, knowledge of chemical engineering and knowledge of material science. An archaeochemist deals with processes, objects, technical installations, equipment and buildings.


This site gives some examples of archaeochemical work, done by the author.