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Brett Kaufman, MRL researcher and Assistant Professor of Classics, is 2020/2021 Getty Research Scholar


Kaufman is an archaeological scientist and Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Using XRF, SEM, and metallographic microscope MRL instruments, his research applies materials science analytical techniques to study ancient and historic remains.

“The goal is to ‘reverse engineer’ past technological processes for which we have limited or no historical records,” said Kaufman. “We are often left with just a small fraction of the original objects.”

Time and the burial environment of the archaeological site affect the material characteristics of the remains. “This means that we need to document microstructural, compositional, and isotopic data of the artifacts as fully as possible, and ideally as non-invasively as possible,” said Kaufman. “Luckily, the MRL has a full suite of instrumentation and expertise available for this work.”

The Getty Scholarship involves residential research at the Getty Villa, a re-creation of an ancient Roman country house from the first century A.D in Malibu, California. Kaufman will use the time to work on a book project entitled Iron Age Phoenician Political Economy: Democracy, Diplomacy, and Destruction at Tyre and Carthage. Scholars of the Levant and Classical World have the opportunity to conduct archival research during their residence, including with the extensive collection of Phoenician and Punic scholarship housed at the Getty.

Kaufman’s research will explore archaeological, epigraphic, and historical data detailing governmental traditions and policies, surplus goods, technological innovations, sociopolitical hierarchy, and diplomacy and warfare within the Phoenician context. Ongoing work at the MRL with ancient Phoenician and Punic samples will inform the research.

Image: Kaufman directing excavations at the Punic and Roman city of Zita, Tunisia