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Department of Archaeology



My background is in chemistry and physics applied to the study of cultural and archaeological artefacts. I have extensive experience in the use of multiple analytical techniques to research glass, metals, ceramics, slags, rocks, pigments and conservation materials.

I worked for seven years in the archaeological science laboratories at UCL, where I was responsible for sample preparation and analysis of archaeomaterials. I taught materials science applied to archaeology, supervised students dissertations, and trained researchers in the lab.

I obtained a PhD in Archaeological Science at UCL, with a research project that combined historical, experimental and archaeological approaches to study naturally and artificially patinated copper alloys.

I recently joined the McDonald Institute as a research associate on the ERC-funded Reverseaction project, where I am in charge of the investigation of metallic and lithic materials in stateless societies of Pre-Columbian Colombia.


My background and working experience have given me an invaluable opportunities to work with a wide range of materials, periods, and archaeological contexts. This is reflected in my diverse research paths and collaborations which range from the nanoparticles physics to history of science, including medieval stained glass, Minoan gold, Cypriot pottery, and African bronzes.

A key research interest of mine is the investigation of the different technologies used to artificially colour metals in archaeological and historical times. This is providing new insight into technological pathways to modify the materiality of metals, and the transmission of knowledge across cultures.

In my position at Cambridge, I will further develop my investigation of metals, stones, and their surfaces. The analysis of raw materials, technologies and skills involved in complex technologies such as goldwork will help us understand technical traditions, knowledge transmission, cross-craft interaction, and craft organisation in stateless Pre-Columbian societies.

Key Publications

Key publications: 
  • Benzonelli, A., Legarra-Herrero B., Martinón-Torres, M., in press. Technological and chemical analyses of the gold items of the Sissi Project (2011-2019). Driessen, I. et al., 2022, Excavations at Sissi V. Report on the 2011-2019 Campaign (Aegis 6), Louvain-la-Neuve.
  • Natan, E., Gorin-Rosen, Y., Benzonelli, A., & Cvikel, D. (2021). Maritime trade in early Islamic-period glass: New evidence from the Maʻagan Mikhael B shipwreck. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 37, 102903.
  • Martinón-Torres, M., Benzonelli, A., Stos-Gale, Z., Henry, R., 2018. Argentiferous copper extraction and post-medieval metals trade: identification and origins of post-medieval Reißcheiben ingots found in Wiltshire, England. Historical metallurgy, 52, part 1
  • Martinón-Torres, M., Li, X., Xia, Y., Benzonelli, A., Bevan, A., Ma, S., Huang, J., Wang, L., Lan, D., Liu, J., Liu, S., Zhao, Z., Zhao, K., Rehren, T., 2018. Surface chromium on Terracotta Army bronze weapons is neither deliberate nor the cause of their corrosion resistance, Nature - scientific report. 9(1), 1–11.
  • Benzonelli, A., Freestone, I., Martinón-Torres, M., 2017. A better shade of black: effects of manufacturing parameters on the development of ancient black bronzes, Archaeometry, 59 (6), 1034–1049.

Other Professional Activities

  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (2019), Society for Archaeological Science (2014), HMS Historical Metallurgy Society (2012)
  • Associate Editor for the Archaeometallurgy section of the SAS (Society of Archaeological Science) bulletin (2019)

Job Titles

Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Artefact Analysis & Technology

Contact Details

ab2852 [a]
McDonald Institute


Person keywords: 
Material science
Material culture
Science, Technology and Innovation
Material Culture
Geographical areas: 
East Asia
Periods of interest: 
Classical - Roman
Copper/Bronze Age
Other Historical