skip to content

Department of Archaeology



Having a background in both the sciences and social sciences, I approach the study of archaeology from the perspective of archaeological science, and studies artifacts using modern, analytical instrumentation. I have been fortunate to also work on a wide variety of materials including ceramics, lithics, and rock art from across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. I recently joined the McDonald Institute as a research associate on the ERC-funded REVERSEACTION project, where I will be investigating ceramic technologies from stateless societies in pre-Hispanic Colombia.


B.A. in Chemistry and Anthropology (Grinnell College, USA)
M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering (University of Arizona, USA)
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Anthropology (University of Arizona, USA)


My research focuses on reverse engineering ancient ceramic technologies to study how technological knowledge was developed, transmitted, adopted, and adapted in the past. For the past five years, I have focused on the development of lead-glazed ceramics in early Islamic period Central Asia. Examining these early glazed ceramics by compositional, isotopic, and microscopic analysis not only reveal the long-distance physical trade networks in place, but also how distinctive Islamic technological traditions were transmitted and adapted into the region. My research also demonstrated the integrated nature of raw materials procurement and cross-craft interaction in the region. 

While at Cambridge, I will further investigate ceramic technologies and cross-craft interactions, with a focus on pre-Hispanic ceramics from Colombia. By comparing the nature of raw materials and production techniques that are used to produce highly decorated ceramics with the study of other complex technologies, we hope to develop a better understanding of complex technical traditions and craft organization, mechanisms of knowledge transmission, and extent of cross-craft interaction in stateless societies.

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Klesner, C.E., Renson, V., Akymbek, Y., Killick, D., 2021. Investigation of Provenances of Early Islamic Lead Glazes from Northern Central Asia using Elemental and Lead Isotope Analyses. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 13, 203. 

Klesner, C.E., Akymbek, Y., Vandiver, P.B., 2021. Lead-glazing Technology from Medieval Central Asia: A Case Study from Aktobe, Kazakhstan. Journal of Archaeological Sciences: Reports 36, 102825.

MacDonald, B.L., Stalla, D., He, X., Rahemtulla, F., Emerson, D., Dube, P.A., Maschman, M.R., Klesner, C.E., White, T.A., 2019. Hunter-Gatherers Harvested and Heated Microbial Biogenic Iron Oxides to Produce Rock Art Pigment. Scientific Reports, 9, 17070.

Klesner, C.E., MacDonald, B.L., Dussubieux, L., Akymbek, Y., Vandiver, P.B., 2019. Local Production and Long-distance Trade of Islamic Glazed Ceramics in Central Asia: A Compositional Analyses of Ceramics from Southern Kazakhstan by NAA and LA-ICP-MS. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 26, 101905. 

Barberena, R., Fernández, M.V., Rughini, A.A., Borrazzo, K., Garvey, R., Lucero, G., Della Negra, C., Villanueva, G.R., Durán, V., Cortegoso, V., Giesso, M., Klesner, C.E., MacDonald, B.L., Glascock, M.D., 2019. Deconstructing a Complex Obsidian ‘Source-scape’: A Geoarchaeological and Geochemical Approach in Northwestern Patagonia. Geoarchaeology, 34, 1-12. 

Job Titles

Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

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

Contact Details

ck645 [a]
McDonald Institute
Downing Street


Person keywords: 
Material Science
Ceramic Analysis
Material Culture
Science, Technology and Innovation
Material Culture
Geographical areas: 
Central Asia
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Iron Age
Other Historical