Laboratory for Artifact Analysis, and Academic Research Program in Archaeometallurgy

you are vistor # since June 3rd 2002

















Program Director: Michael R. Notis

The Laboratory:

The Archaeometallurgy Laboratory at Lehigh University offers a unique centre for the analysis of archaeological and historical metals. The lab was established to make analysis available to small museums, university-based archaeology departments and groups, and private parties who do not have access to appropriate laboratory facilities or who are not able to afford the costs of such analysis.
We welcome discussion and questions regarding objects and the alternative options available for their investigation.

Pre-Columbian – Moche Culture (circa 100-600 AD) from the Vicus region – Tumbaga filigree (nose ornament)
(to see more Pre-Columbian artifacts we are working on click here) (width ~ 2.5 inches).

Our Facilities:

The analytical resources at Lehigh University include: one of the world’s finest laboratories for electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy [SEM], electron probe microanalysis [EPMA], transmission electron microscopy [TEM], and analytical electron microscopy [AEM].

Micrograph of a white cast iron Ming Dynasty Statute (located at the ROM). Metallurgical structure shows a fine dendritic network of pearlite (dark) with cementite intergrowth (white). some iron sulphide inclusions are also present (picture width = 50 µm).


We have full facilities for the preparation of metallographic specimens and examination by light optical microscopy, which includes quantitative image analysis. We also have access to a unique facility for surface analysis by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy [XPS], and the capability to perform X-ray diffraction, and Fourier Transform infrared spectrometry [FTIR].

Academic Program:

The academic program at Lehigh seeks to apply the principles and methods of materials science to problems in archaeometallurgy and conservation. The program provides an overview of the role of materials in past societies, combined with the technical training for the use of modern materials research. Students learn to understand and interpret scientific data derived from the scientific investigation of these artifacts. Students are given the opportunity and encouraged to analyze materials which they have an expressed interest in, either by material type, geographical location, or specific chronological period.



Iron knife with bone handle from the Archaeological Philistine site of Miqne (Fabled city of Ekron)


Our program research interests include:

  • Extending our previous studies of the in-situ initial oxidation kinetics of copper-tin alloys using XPS (the Scienta XPS at Lehigh has the highest power anode of any unit in the US and is the only unit able to resolve the Sn2+ and Sn4+ peaks).
  • Developing a non-destructive method to perform quantitative microchemical analysis on glass and ceramic materials that avoids coating prior to analysis using quantitative X-ray analysis in the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM).
  • Using synchrotron radiation to perform non-destructive X-ray diffraction and fluorescence on ancient astrolabes; and microradiography and microdiffraction studies of solder joints in silver objects.

Unsigned Spanish European Astrolabe circa 1500 AD being studied by synchrotron X-radiation


Current and upcoming projects:

  • A study group of over two dozen Pre-Colombian objects.
  • A study of the development in fabrication technology of ancient Japanese swords.
  • A study of the development in technology associated with medical/surgical instruments in the Greek and Roman World.
  • A study of the development of metals technology (ex., the earliest cast iron) in ancient China.
  • A study of the development of the earliest copper production and distribution in the Chalcolithic Near East (6000 years ago).



Sample diffraction pattern from synchrotron X-radiation illustrating a rolled deformation history





Professor Michael R.Notis -- Director








We are centrally located in the Lehigh Valley about 1-1/2 hours from New York City and 1 hour from Philadelphia.

For more information about our program please contact:

Prof. Michael R. Notis

Archaeometallurgy Laboratory
Lehigh University
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
5 East Packer Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Tel: +610 758 4701
Fax: +610 758 3526


The Archaeometallurgy Laboratory is funded by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation.

The page is the property of the Archaeometallurgy Laboratory, Lehigh University.


This site was last updated on October 26, 2007