Photo of Dr Matthew Ponting

Dr Matthew Ponting BA, PhD, FSA

Reader in Archaeological Materials Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology


    Research Overview

    Matthews research focusses on the detailed examination of archaeological finds made of inorganic materials using a variety of scientific methods to inform us about people in the past; why, where and how these fascinating objects were made. His main field of expertise is non-ferrous metals, and it was the investigation of irregular Roman coins made of copper-alloys that formed the basis of his doctoral thesis (UCL 1994). The investigation of ancient coinage has continued to be a major research area since 1994, when Matthew teamed-up with Numismatist and Ancient Historian, Kevin Butcher, to study Roman silver coinage. Nearly thirty years and four significant research grants later (Leverhulme Trust, two three year AHRC research grants and now a five year ERC Horizon 2020 grant) Matthew and Kevin continue to collaborate, currently looking at the origins of Roman silver coinage through the analyses of Hellenistic and Roman Republican coinage. Collaborations with the keepers of some of the great coin collections in the world, including the British Museum, Yale University Museum and Art Gallery, Princeton University, Munzekabinett Winterthur and The National Museum of Denmark, as well as local Museum Services throughout the UK has allowed the sampling and analysis of some 8000 coins, some of which are already accessible through the Archaeology Data Service. The first of a series of monographs has been published by Cambridge University Press and papers continue to be written for a variety of International academic journals.
    The investigation of the development and changes in the manufacture and use of copper-alloys in the Levant from the Hellenistic to the Early Islamic period is the other main research theme pursued by Matthew, begining with his post-doctoral research on the Roman military metalwork from Masada and Gamla in Israel. How cultural interactions were reflected in the choices made by different peoples about the metals they selected for their tools and decorative objects provides valuable insights into attitudes and biases that are particularly informative at times of significant social and cultural change.

    Research Interest 1

    Ancient metalwork; materials and technology
    Archaeological materials and their investigation and analysis.
    Ancient coinage
    Roman archaeology
    Classical and Medieval Near East

    Research Grants

    The Athlit ram revisited: technical metallurgical and provenance analysis coupled with surface mapping and 3D modeling of the ram and its timbers


    October 2016 - June 2019

    RACOM Rome and the Coinages of the Mediterranean: 200 BC to AD 64


    September 2019 - August 2025

    An economy in chaos? Analysis of Roman silver coins, Nero to Septimus Severus.


    March 2006 - February 2009

    2000 years of cross-cultural interaction: scientific analysis of the non-ferrous metal artefects from the excavations of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.


    March 2005 - May 2007

    Investigate the extraction of lead in Iron Age and Roman Somerset and its possible link with silver production


    March 2008 - March 2009

    The British archaeological project at the Iron Age emporium of Vetren-Pistiros, Bulgaria.


    June 2005 - August 2006

    A third century crisis? The composition and metallurgy of Roman silver coinage: Septimius Severus to Valerian and Gallienus.


    October 2014 - September 2018

    Research Collaborations

    Dr. Dan Levine

    External: University of Southampton

    The relationship between the scientific (archaeometallurgical) and textual sources for information about the manufacture and use copper-alloy artefacts in ancient societies.

    Prof. Chris Howgego

    External: The University of Oxford

    Research into the coinage of Alexandria in Egypt during the Antonine period.

    Dr. Simon James

    External: University of Leicester

    Joint application to BA for funding to investigate Roman military metalwork from Dura Europos, Syria.

    Dr. Oren Tal

    External: Tel Aviv University

    Study of Philistian silver coinage.

    Prof. Kevin Butcher

    External: University of Warwick

    Research into the composition of Roman Imperial silver coins.

    Dr. Steven Minnitt

    External: Somerset County Museum Service

    Lead isotope analysis of lead artefacts from Meare and Glastonbury Lake Villages.

    Dr. L. Barham


    Study of 18th century glass trade beads from Zambia.

    Chris Somerfield

    External: University of Nottingham

    Development of improved ICP-AES analysis techniques for silver-based alloys.

    Haim Gitler

    External: Israel Museum, Jerusalem

    Study of the coinage of Septimius Severus.
    Study of Fatimid coin dies.
    Study of Ptolomaic minting techniques.
    Study of Philistian silver coinage.