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Prof Ian Freestone
  • Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technologies
  • Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
  • Institute of Archaeology
  • Faculty of S&HS

Ian Freestone is an archaeological scientist in the Institute of Archaeology.   He trained as a geochemist in the universities of Reading and Leeds, and was awarded a NERC post-doctoral fellowship in experimental petrology at the University of Manchester.  In 1979 he joined the British Museum as a materials scientist specialising in the investigation of early ceramics and glass, and moved to Cardiff University as a Professorial Fellow in 2004, where he was Head of Archaeology (2007-10).  He joined UCL in 2011 as Professor of Archaeological Materials and Technology and manages the Wolfson materials science laboratories. He has conducted research on artefacts from all over the world, from the Neolithic to the early modern periods.  

Ian has published over 150 research papers and is a recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s Pomerance Medal for scientific contributions to archaeology (2004).   He chairs the British School at Athens Fitch Laboratory sub-Committee and is a past President of the Association for the History of Glass (2003-7) and Vice-President of l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre (2003-6).  He is a member of the editorial boards of Archaeometry and the Journal of Archaeological Science. He was Treasurer of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, has served on the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Earth Sciences Peer Review Committee (1995-1999) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council

(AHRC) Peer Review College (2009-2011).  He is a member of the UK’s HEFCE REF2014 sub-panel on Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Science.  He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Geological Society of London.

Research Summary

Freestone’s early archaeological work focused on the petrography and trade of earthenware ceramics, where he also made a number of contributions to methodology, particularly in the application of microbeam techniques.  He built upon this work in the investigation of the ceramic refractories associated with early metallurgy, as well as a range of high quality wares including Egyptian faience, Islamic glazed ceramics, Harappan reserved slip ware and Chinese and European porcelains.  He curated a British Museum exhibition on ceramic production, “Pottery in the Making: World Ceramic Traditions” and co-edited the book of the same name.  Current ceramic interests include the development of early British porcelain and the production of Seljuq glazed wall tiles at Kubad Abad, Turkey.

Freestone demonstrated the quantitative correspondence between the compositions of northern European 12th century enamels and Roman glass, confirming the re-use of Roman opaque glass in the medieval period.  He demonstrated that the compositions of medieval Syrian and early Venetian glass enamels were high firing and must have been fused using a rapid insertion into the kiln. He has drawn attention to the potential use of metallurgical by-products in opaque glass production, for example in the case of the Lycurgus Cup, a rare Roman vessel coloured red by nanoparticles of gold alloy. 

He played a leading role in the development of the currently preferred model for the production and distribution of glass in the Byzantine, Islamic and early medieval worlds.  He is currently using isotopic and trace element approaches to investigate the origins and distribution of Roman glass from London and has recently completed a major programme of analysis of medieval stained glass windows, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.  

Teaching Summary

Freestone has teaching expertise in archaeological science, early technology, structure and decay of archaeological materials, and analytical methods in archaeology and conservation and is course co-ordinator for Archaeological Glass and Glazes:

ARCLG111 Archaeological Glass and Glazes
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