Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

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Start date | 01.01.2020

Jiří Kmošek, Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts

One of the key aspects of the understanding of ancient Egypt is its economy and the circulation of metals within it. Among them, copper is the most frequently used metal. As, for many reasons, copper production and copper objects were not studied in sufficient detail, this field of research offers new data on old questions. The main research questions addressed in this project are related to the issues of the lead isotope and trace element signature of the Eastern Desert and Nubian copper ores, the provenance of early Egyptian and Nubian copper, the material properties and composition of these arsenical copper and tin bronze alloys and their diffusion within Egyptian and Nubian societies.

The proposed research questions will be addressed within three case studies. Within the proposed PhD project, geological samples of copper ores from the Eastern Desert of Egypt and Upper Nubia and also metallurgical debris from Old Kingdom Giza will be analysed. Furthermore, an assemblage of ancient Egyptian metalwork from the Early Dynastic to the New Kingdom periods, currently stored in European museums, will be studied using a wide range of available archaeometallurgical methods. Metallurgical questions will be answered by the combination of methods such as optical microscopy, Vickers microhardness tests, pXRF, SEM/EDS and µXRD. Provenance questions will be discussed with the help of more advanced analytical techniques such as ED-XRF, NAA, µPIXE and MC-ICP-MS. The obtained data will be interpreted using a wide range of statistical methods within the framework of the known and reconstructed distribution networks of ancient Egyptian and Nubian society.