Archaeological Science and Conservation of Marine Finds

Event Date:
Start at 9:00 AM
October 1, 2022
Fort Cumberland


Spend a day with the experts getting hands-on experience in a range of archaeological science and conservation techniques. Practical skills covered on this course will include: desalination and wood conservation, airscribing of concretions, introduction to materials science and XRF, examining bones and plant sediments from shipwrecks.

It is highly recommended that this course be taken in conjunction with the online theory course on Archaeological Science and Conservation of Marine Finds.


Anyone with an interest in scientific analysis and examination of artefacts and ecofacts from wreck sites. This course gives you practical experience in a number of useful archaeological science and conservation skills.


Angela Middleton, Senior Archaeological Conservator at Historic England

Francesca Gherardi, Materials Scientist at Historic England

Polydora Baker, Senior Zooarchaeologist at Historic England

Ruth Pelling, Archaeobotanist at Historic England


NAS members £100
Non-NAS members £140 (although as NAS membership starts at £20, you’re better off becoming a member and getting the discount rate immediately!)


Participants spend an hour at each activity and will rotate around the five stations listed below.

Please note: This aspect may change depending on the artefacts available in the lab at the time, but activities will likely include

Desalination and Wood Conservation is a crucial part of marine conservation. Find out about desalination and tracking progress and get the opportunity to see and handle numerous artefacts still going through the desalination/ conservation process. During the practical exercise we will either monitor timbers during the vacuum-freeze drying cycle or learners will clean timbers post conservation.

Airscribe is a favourite tool for conservators and you will get a chance to use one on a concretion. Alongside the X-ray image, you will be guided in the use of this equipment to reveal and microexcavate artefacts within the concretion.

Introduction to analytical techniques and XRF at the materials science lab at Historic England. Learn about the analysis of the elemental composition of coins and copper alloy artefacts from the Rooswijk shipwreck by benchtop micro-X-Ray Fluorescence (micro-XRF).

Introduction to zooarchaeological methods will give participants the opportunity to handle modern reference skeletons and archaeological animal bones and teeth (including cattle, sheep/goat, pig, dog, bird, fish) and practice some basic zooarchaeological techniques including: IDing bones, determining age at death, biometric analysis to determine animal size and shape, identification of bone preservation, including natural and anthropogenic (eg butchery) modifications.

Sampling plant remains will allow participants to look at waterlogged archaeological plant material under a microscope. You will be guided through the extraction, counting and identification process and have the opportunity to discuss the significance of the identification and the interpretation of the deposit.