Experimental and Archaeological Sciences Lab (EASL)

Support Archaeological Science at the Cotsen

As archaeologists, we usually spend part of the year doing fieldwork, in remote locations, uncovering the mysteries of how people lived in the past. But this year has been like no other. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel is restricted and so is access to our labs at the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology for most of the students.

Although we won’t be excavating this year, exciting discoveries can still be made -in the laboratory. That’s why we are asking for your help to purchase portable scientific tools that students can use at home. With your donation, students can turn the present situation into an opportunity to dig into the data. It may be less fun than digging in dirt, but scientific discovery is at the core of archaeology.

Right now, we have an opportunity to help students build and analyze robust data sets from previous field work. But we need your support.  

Please donate to the Cotsen archaeological science labs so that our graduate students can continue their research. You can get involved by clicking the "Learn More" button and be sure to include that your gift is for archaeological science!

learn more about giving to archaeological science campaign

Kiln and electric potter's wheel

EASL is a research lab for the study of past cultures and materials through experimentation, scientific analysis and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education. 

All students, affiliates of the Cotsen Institute, and volunteers are welcome to use the resources available in EASL. To get more information about the lab, to reserve equipment, or to enquire about volunteer opportunities, please contact lab director Dr. Vanessa Muros.


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The Experimental and Archaeological Sciences Laboratory (EASL) is a collaborative research space dedicated to the study of ancient materials and technology through replication experiments and scientific analysis. The lab assists students, faculty and Cotsen affiliates with their archaeological research projects, as well as offers resources for laboratory-based courses. The work conducted plays an integral role in fulfilling the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology's mission to create, disseminate and conserve archaeological knowledge and heritage.  


The lab was established in the second half of 2018 in what used to be the European Archaeology Laboratory (room A419) and officially opened in the fall of 2019.  EASL currently houses equipment for the examination and analysis of archaeological materials, as well as for the replication of archaeological artifacts and technological activities . This includes:

  • a traditional kick-wheel and a modern electric potter’s wheel for experimental pottery making
  • a small electric kiln for experimental production of pyrotechnological materials like ceramics and faience
  • a selection of microscopes, including stereo-microscopes, reflected, transmitted and cross-polarized light microscopes
  • sample preparation equipment for grinding and polishing of petrographic thin-sections and mounted samples, as well as hot plates and centrifuges
  • several portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometers for material analysis


You can find a list of the available equipment here.

Current Projects

Identification of Neolithic Pigments from Masis Blur

This project aims to identify raw pigments excavated from the Neolithic settlement of Masis Blur (7000–6400 cal. BP)  in modern Armenia using techniques such as polarized light microscopy and pXRF. Once identified, the work will shift to determine how these pigments, and the spaces that they were found in, were used, and where the materials came from to provide information on craft specialization and long distance trade activities at Masis Blur. This project is a collaboration with Dr. Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky, Director of the Armenian Lab at the Cotsen Institute and co-director of the Masis Blur Archaeological Project. 


PXRF Analysis of Copper Alloy Artifacts from Lofkend 

image of copper alloy spiral ornament

This projects looks at the applicability of portable XRF spectrometry for the compositional analysis of copper alloy objects from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age tumulus at Lofkend.  A methodology will be established for the quantitative analysis of very small samples taken from the artifacts. The results will be used to understand the types of alloys used to manufacture items of personal adornment (fibulae, earrings, spiral ornaments).  The results of this study will complement an earlier metallographic study conducted on this same group of samples. 


Analysis of Glass Production Debris from Petrie’s Excavations at Amarna

cross-section of a technical ceramic with glass from Amarna (Penn Museum Collection)This project focuses on the examination and analysis of glass production debris found at Amarna, excavated by Petrie in the late 19th c. and currently housed at the Penn Museum. Different analytical techniques are being used to characterize the composition of the glass waste and identify the raw materials used in the production of vitreous materials at the site. The results will also help identify what stages of glass manufacture this archaeological evidence represents adding to the data collected so far on the Late Bronze Age glass industry in Egypt and the broader eastern Mediterranean region.  This project is funded in part by the American Research Center in Egypt's (ARCE) Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF).


Check out the the 2021 issue of Backdirt to learn about the research activities of the lab during its first year of operation. Research Before and During the Pandemic: The Experimental and Archaeological Sciences Laboratory
March 2021

Latest issue of Backdirt is out and includes a write up on the lab Laboratory Life: The Experimental and Archaeological Sciences Lab
March 2020

Latest in the Labs: The Experimental and Archaeological Sciences Lab
January 30, 2020

Vanessa Muros visits Field Museum's Elemental Analysis Facility to study ritual use of red ochre pigments
October 17, 2019

image of lab bench with microscopes