Professor Shadreck Chirikure

Research Profile

Materials analysis is the core of archaeological science; but for a fuller understanding, science must be integrated with social sciences and humanities, thus opening new ways to understand the past, and new opportunities to overcome present and future challenges. My research work, past, present and prospective is focussed on six main areas: (i) reconstruction of ancient technologies (e.g. metallurgy, ceramics, etc.), (ii) artefacts, technology and innovation, (iii) integration of social science theories with scientific techniques to enhance effectiveness of scientific methods, (iv) history of technology, (v) application of scientific techniques to conserve artefacts and sites and (vi) public engagement through heritage science including exhibitions. This work is pursued through excavations, museum-based projects, laboratory investigations (optical microscopy, SEM-EDS, EPMA, WD-XRF, (LA)-ICP-MS, etc) and experimental work, bringing together natural and social sciences with humanities.

Selected current projects:

  • Archaeometry and social formation in southern Africa (British Academy Global Professorship Programme)

Application of integrated archaeological science techniques (materials analysis, bioarchaeology and remote sensing) to explore resource provisioning and circulation at Great Zimbabwe and beyond.

  • Archaeological science and globalisation: crucibles and metallurgical artefacts from Great Zimbabwe World Heritage site (with Paul Lane and Marcos Martinon-Torres, Cambridge) (Royal Society Mobility Grant)

Application of archaeometallurgical, petrographic and quantitative techniques to characterise crucible fabrics and attached metal processing residues to infer mobility and transfer of ideas between southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.

  • Gold and silver circulation during the initial phases of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean trade: Au and Ag coins from the Bom Jesus Shipwreck (University of Oxford, Higher Studies Fund).

Application of trace element geochemistry, lead isotope analysis and quantitative techniques to explore circulation of gold and silver between Latin America, Europe, and West Africa

  • Viking Iron Production in Norway (with Per Ditlef Fredrisen, Oslo)

Chemical and mineralogical analyses of slags, ores, tuyeres, and furnace remains from selected Viking iron production sites in Norway

Selected Awards:

Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (2022)

Member, Academy of Science of South Africa (2021)

Shanghai Archaeology Forum Research Award (2019)

British Academy Global Professorship (2018)




Course Lecturer: Archaeological Materials

Doctoral Supervision

I am happy to supervise on topics on ancient materials and technologies including archaeometallurgy, low and high temperature ceramics and glass. I am interested in cross craft overlaps in techniques, skills, knowledge and how natural and artificial materials and technologies used to work them shaped the evolution of societies of the past 10 000 years.

Current students

Markers of Cultural Identity on Pottery: An Integrated Approach to Pottery Analysis from Border Zones
Mikayla Coad | DPhil Archaeological Science | Supervisor: Shadreck Chirikure
The Role of South and East Africa in the Indian Ocean Rim
Muchen Zhou | DPhil Archaeology | Supervisor: Shadreck Chirikure
Collaborative Custodians: Practical Solutions to Curation & Knowledge Revival Through Zimbabwean Museums
Thandiwe Wilson | DPhil Archaeology | Supervisors: Shadreck Chirikure and Laura van Broekhoven

Key words: material, technologies of making, trade, interaction, materiality, museums, pottery, resilience, material culture, artefacts, exchange, later prehistory, Africa, Eurasia, Americas