Welcome to the HMS metallographic collections catalogue

The Research Lab for Archaeology and History of Art (RLAHA) in Oxford currently houses and manages the Historical Metallurgy Society's (HMS) collection of metallographic mounts.
This collection is mainly constituted by metallographic mounts from the estate of R.F. Tylecote, but it also includes H.H Coghlan's and G.R. Morton's collections. It contains over 800 metallographic mounts and a small number of sectioned objects.

History of the collection

R.F. Tylecote is widely considered as one of the fathers of archaeometallurgy. During his career he studied an outstanding number of samples from many different horizons, Roman iron tools in Britain, Bronze Age copper ingots in Cyprus, slag and ores in Spain and the Near-East to cite only a few. He also carried out a number of smelting and casting experiments and analysed closely the products he obtained. To add to his own samples, Tylecote also acquired the collections of his colleagues H.H. Coghlan and G.R. Morton.

After Tylecote's death in 1990, these collections, along with Tylecote's paper archive, were donated to the HMS. The paper archive has been catalogued and is currently housed at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, while the metallographic collection is subject to a Memorandum of Agreement between the HMS and the RLAHA who has been housing and managing it since the end of 2012.

In 2013, the metallographic collection was catalogued by the RLAHA and this online resource was created. It has already helped to support several student's projects and in particular a master's dissertation on the re-evaluation of the Yattendon Hoard.


The collection is currently constituted of approximately:

coghlan tray
A tray from Coghlan's archive cabinet
- 525 metallographic mounts from Tylecote's collection. These include notably all the mounts used by him in his publication with Brian Gilmour The metallography of early ferrous edge tools and edged weapons (1986), samples collected during the expedition lead by T. Wertime in the Near-East, samples for the Huelva Archaeo-metallurgical Project and Timna excavations, both led by B. Rothenberg, work on copper ingots from Cyprus with M. Balmuth, work on metal object recovered on shipwrecks commissioned by the BNFL, and many others.

- 250 metallographic mounts and a few sectioned objects from H.H. Coghlan's collection. These are almost all copper-based and represent most of the objects from the Newbury Museum sampled and examined by Coghlan and published in the late 1950s and the early 1980s. This includes in particular many British and Irish Axes and Palstaves and all the samples from Coghlan's publication on the Yattendon hoard (1970).

- 50 slag mounts from G.R. Morton's collections and in particular the slag examined for his publications with Wingrove on Roman slag (1969) and Medieval slag (1972).

It is hoped that more mounts will in time be added to this collection. In particular, it is planned that B. Gilmour will shortly add the other half of the samples discussed in Tylecote and Gilmour's publication on iron tools and weapons (see above).

The online catalogue

screen capture
Screen capture showing a record
for a sample
This catalogue holds one record for each sample of the collection (metallographic mount or sectioned object). These "sample records" directly link to records describing the objects from which these samples originate.
Each "object record" holds information on the find context, metallographic observations and chemical analysis of the objects when these were found in the literature.
The publications in which information was found also each have their own database entry accessible directly from a link on the "object records".

To get started you can simply type your research interests on the Simple search page (eg. "Roman iron knives") or browse the objects, samples or publications records on the Browse page.

The Advanced search and export tool enables you to conveniently create and export tables containing selected data contained in this catalogue. For example you can create a table of the dimensions, hardness and chemical composition of all the palstaves sampled in this collection.

Ongoing work

coghlan tray
Repolished samples from
the Tylecote archive
Although the RLAHA has now catalogued all the mounts of the collection, a number, in particular from Tylecote's collection, have not yet been identified and linked back to artefacts. The identification of more samples is the subject of ongoing work.

It is also hoped that, in time, most of the mounts can be re-prepared and re-imaged to add to the value of this archive and make it a fully searchable micro-photographic resource and a truly unique learning and research tool for the archaeometallurgical community.