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Ancient Maritime Pitch and Tar: a multi-disciplinary study of sources, technology and preservation


This intra-European fellowship places the designated researcher at the hub of a collaborative interdisciplinary project combining chemistry, archaeology, maritime history and conservation to advance understanding of the technology and use of pitch/tar products in Medieval Europe and to evaluate their stability in archaeological and museum environments. Analytical chemistry techniques will be used to research the sources and technology of pitch/tar from a number of medieval shipwrecks. Material from the recently excavated Newport Ship will be a focus for the study. This unique assemblage offers scope for the investigation of ship building techniques and repair strategies alongside examination of differential preservation due to burial environment. Interpretation of the Newport material will be supported by co-investigation of pitch/tar from at least four further wreck sites with differing preservation conditions enabling the impact of both intra and inter-site variability in burial environment to be compared. Production and ageing of pitch/tar materials under laboratory conditions will aid interpretation of the archaeological material and allow the stability of the materials in different environments to be systematically evaluated. This research will provide vital knowledge for improving approaches to the care of pitch/tar materials in museum collections. The researcher’s background in resin chemistry and previous experience of maritime archaeological material provide an excellent match for the project’s skill and knowledge requirements while offering plenty of scope for the acquisition of new competencies and broadening of experience. The host organisation offers a completely new form of working environment for the researcher and a multitude of opportunities for forging of professional contacts and relationships. It also offers the potential for wide dissemination of the research maximising opportunities for international transfer of knowledge generated.

Call for proposal

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Great russell street
WC1B 3DG London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — West Camden and City of London
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Rebecca Stacey (Dr.)
EU contribution
€ 171 740,80