Addressing the Invisible: Recycling, Glass and Technological Practice in the 1st Millennium AD

Recycling has many connotations in today's world, and is bound up with concepts of sustainability, environmental awareness, and responsibility. But how did people in the past view and practice recycling? And how should our growing awareness of the scale of recycling in past societies impact upon the ways in which archaeologists and historians trace trade and economy?

This project, undertaken thanks to a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Chloe N. Duckworth, uses experimental archaeology to reconstruct glass recycling in the 1st millennium AD Mediterranean. This is vital for two reasons: (i) recycling provides a valuable insight into human interaction with material culture, particularly outside core production zones; (ii) recycling has a significant effect on the relationship between finished objects and their origins and production technology, biasing scientific studies into ancient materials.

Experimental glass production


Using our high temperature furnaces, glasses are replicated to ancient recipes, and tested for compositional 'markers' of recycling by state of the art laser ablation ICP mass spectrometry. Evidence for these markers is then sought in the large body of data on the composition of archaeological glasses, and the results are traced over time and space, with glass recycling patterns being mapped in a GIS. The effects of recycling on working properties and the experience of glass workers are also being explored in collaboration with glassblowers and lampworkers.

The project is the focus of an educational film about experimental archaeology, aimed at secondary school children and undergraduates. In 2017 it will form the springboard for an interdisciplinary conference on recycling, past and present, including collaboration with local government, artists and SMEs.

Recycling has many connotations in today's world, and is bound up with concepts of sustainability, environmental awareness, and responsibility. But how did people in the past view and practice recycling? And how should our growing awareness of the scale of recycling in past societies impact upon the ways in which archaeologists and historians trace trade and economy?

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AHRC Midlands3Cities

PhD funding for UK/EU students

The Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership is awarding up to 80 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) PhD studentships for UK/EU applicants for October 2018 entry.
  1. Submit a pre-application form to express interest in PhD study, or contact Adam (PGR administrator) with any questions.
  2. Attend the M3C Application Writing workshop at Leicester on 18 November (view details, or book a place)
Funding application deadline: Monday 15 January 2018
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