Course Identification

Microarchaeology: beyond the visible archaeological Record

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Prof. Elisabetta Boaretto, Prof. Steve Weiner

Course Schedule and Location

First Semester
Thursday, 09:15 - 11:00

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences (Scientific Archeology Track): Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences: For PhD students only; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Systems Biology Track): For PhD students only; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Track): For PhD students only; 2.00 points


This course will be held by hybrid learning
** Benoziyo room 590c is reserved***

Students must participate in the field excursion, even though they may have to miss other lectures and lab work.





Language of Instruction


Registration by


Attendance and participation

Expected and Recommended

Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type

Final assignment

Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The archaeological record is made up of the materials that can be seen by the naked eye, and the embedded structures and molecules within these materials that can only be “seen” with the help of instrumentation. This course integrates the macroscopic record and the microscopic record, which we refer to as “microarchaeology” (described in a textbook entitled Microarchaeology by Steve Weiner 2010).

After two introductory lectures, we will visit an historic archaeological site (Tel Safit) and discuss the microarchaeological discoveries made at that site. The lectures will be devoted to topics that include archaeological dating (chronology), reconstructing high temperature activities (pyrotechnology) and insights into the use of plants and animals (archaeobotany and archaeozoology). The approach to these topics will be through case studies of archaeological sites. Towards the end of the course there will be an all-day field trip to Nahal Zin in the Negev Highlands to visit the prehistoric sites of Boker.

The course is designed both for archaeological science students at the Weizmann Institute and elsewhere (with an optional attendance by Zoom), as well as natural science students (chemists, biologists and physicists) at the Weizmann Institute who are interested in learning about archaeology at length scales from tens of meters to nanometers. 


  1. Introduction: what is archaeology, the archaeological record, microarchaeology, chronology and diagenesis?  How to extract the signals from the noise of time.
  2. Microarchaeology – an integrated case study involving the reconstruction of a violent destruction of the site of Tel Safit in the 8th century BC.
  3. Field trip to Tel Safit to see the macro- and microarchaeology of the destruction layer.
  4. Chronology – the time dimension. Different methods for dating, the timeline of major events in the archaeological record and the integrated approach to the research field of chronology (4 hours).
  5. Pyrotechnology – the history of the use of fire and the development of high temperature materials (eg. plaster).
  6. Archaeobotany – the use of plants, including ethnoarchaeological studies in northern Greece and Uzbekistan. The climate record embedded in wood, as well as the products of burning wood, namely ash and charcoal (4 hours).
  7. Archaeozoology – bones and teeth in the archaeological record, including the reconstruction of past human genetics using preserved DNA and proteins.
  8. Whole day field trip to the prehistoric sites of Boker in Nahal Zin.
  9. Students present 15 minute talks each on a topic of their choice (6 hours).


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. have a good broad understanding of archaeological science and microarchaeology, including a day at an excavation site.
  2. The course would be an excellent introduction to interdisciplinary studies including archaeology, biology and chemistry


Reading List

Papers provided during the lectures.

Steve Weiner “Microarchaeology: beyond the visible record” Cambridge 2010