ArchaeoSTEM twitter conference

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The Museum of Liverpool is hosting this science and archaeology themed twitter conference as part of the Festival of Archaeology.

A twitter conference means that anyone anywhere can attend and you can even catch up after the event by following our hashtag #ArchMoL21. Our theme this year is Archaeology and STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) or #ArchaeoSTEM.

Each presenter will tweet their presentation in a twitter thread, at the following times.


Throughout the Twitter conference, osteologist Alex Fitzpatrick will act as a discussant, prompting questions of adding comments during the papers. We welcome comments, questions and input from anyone – that’s the beauty of Twitter! So do get involved, using the hashtag #ArchMoL21.

12.30pm #ArchaeoSTEM at the Museum of Liverpool

Welcome from the Museum of Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool explores ten years of projects where archaeology and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths have been used to reveal more about the collections.

1pm Dr Sam Rowe, Historic England Science Advisor

Heritage and science unite! 

So what does a Science Advisor actually do? And how does it fit into Historic England’s strategy of caring for England’s historic environment? Case studies from the NW region will highlight the types of projects we work and advise on and give an overview of the variety of scientific application within the heritage sector.

1.30pm Meg Metcalfe, Wessex Archaeology

Reconstructing the landscapes of the past; how geoscience is used to map submerged landscapes and identify areas of archaeological potential

When discussing marine archaeology, it is often thought of in terms of relatively modern artefacts on the seafloor such as shipwrecks. Often there is less focus on the importance of drowned landscapes and their significance in relation to prehistoric archaeology. Using case studies from the UK and the USA, this paper is an overview of how geoscience is used to map and reconstruct these drowned landscapes, and the types of archaeological artefacts that can be found in them. 

2pm Naomi Rubinstein, University of Liverpool

Some of these coins are not like the others: identifying unofficial coins in Romano-British hoards with pXRF 

The identification of copies minted under Constantine and his sons (AD330-341) has primarily been carried out visually. The problem with using visual identifications methods is that they can be challenging to learn, and classifications are often inconsistent between individuals. The method also relies on contemporary copies to contain errors, which can become increasingly difficult to identify with the addition of corrosion which can obscure details needed for clear identification. As a result, classifications can differ widely between researchers. Chemical analysis has shown that copies contain less than a half per-cent of silver. In contrast, regular issues contain between 1-2%, meaning that compositional analysis is the most accurate way to identify contemporary copies. Unfortunately, many of the main compositional methods use destructive sampling, making it not ideal when analysing large amounts of coinage.

This research aims to evaluate the use of non-destructive compositional surface analysis with a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) as an alternative to both destructive compositional analysis and visual means for the identification of Constantinian copies.

2.30pm Dr Jessica Liu, Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University 

Rebuilding historical faces from the skull

Face Lab is an interdisciplinary research group in the institute of Art and Technology at Liverpool School of Art and Design. Their research focuses on facial depiction and representation of the dead from their skeletal remains, and their work operates at the interface of art, science and technology.

As scientific methods and visualisation techniques have developed, the representations of people from the past have become more realistic and detailed. The facial depiction of Leasowe Man, currently on display at the Museum of Liverpool and previously updated by Face Lab in 2015, will be re-presented during the Festival of Archaeology following updates enabled by new technologies and processes. Face lab will also share with the audience some ‘behind the scenes’ actions in the making of Leasowe Man.

Find out more about Face Lab, or follow them via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook: @FaceLabLJMU

3pm Nebu George, Bangor University

It’s elemental dear Watson! A study of Viking Age house floors through chemistry. 

Multielement geochemical analyses of a Middle Norse house from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, have revealed interesting results in terms of the use of internal space. The application of this method of soil analysis has particularly helped in identifying specific areas of use. The floor of this house was analysed for fifteen elements, including phosphorus, using a Total X-ray Fluorescence (TXRF) spectrometer. The analysis revealed a division of space within the house, suggesting that certain areas of the house were designated for specific functions. It also showed that certain activities have chemical signatures in the form of elevated levels of certain groups of elements in the soils. Comparing this site with other Viking age houses, this paper shall show that geochemical analysis is a way forward in archaeology for the study of domestic space in structures. 

3.30pm Dr Lindsay Bloch, Florida Museum of Natural History

Liverpool Pottery in the Atlantic World  

Liverpool became important as a port city during the 18th C. as a hub for transatlantic trade. Many products including pottery were made nearby in places like Prescot and Rainford. While the pretty teawares exported from Liverpool have been identified in North American contexts based on decoration and form, the generic coarsewares were only identified recently through elemental analysis. This technique has made it possible to discover Liverpool coarse earthenwares in many collections from sugar plantations of Jamaica to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. These everyday artifacts link makers and users, emphasising that the ocean was not a barrier, but instead a way to connect people in economic and social relationships.

4pm Jim Glenister, NW Heritage 

Seeing through the soil: Geophysical investigations at Piermaster’s Green, Liverpool 

The Museum of Liverpool are carrying out a community archaeology project to investigate the remains of houses which once stood on Piermaster’s Green at the Royal Albert Dock. The Forensic Anthropology team at Liverpool John Moores University worked in partnership with the Museum of Liverpool to investigate the site using non-invasive geophysical techniques to establish the extent of the remains.  The results show that significant parts of the basement structures still exist.