Chelsea Kaufman & Ben Doddy: An Experimental Approach to Ancient Egyptian Metalworking

Friday, June 14, 2019

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free) 


A great deal of attention has been paid to ancient Egyptian metal works for their beauty, elegance, and refinement. Serious discussions of metal-production processes have been largely overlooked, however—perhaps, in part, because the ancient Egyptians do not leave us with explanations of these processes beyond sparse and elusive tomb imagery (such as this scene from the 18th-dynasty tomb of Rekhmire), and intermittent and enigmatic mythological allusions.

Our experiments mark the early stages of our ongoing investigations into the materiality of metal production in ancient Egypt.  The goal of our research is to suggest the possible manufacturing sequences that may have occurred in the past, and uncover the hidden aspects of the materials and production technologies against a social and cultural background. We aim to illuminate the processes, challenges, and both human and material agency behind such works, which is only accessible through experimental archaeology aided by modern technology.

In this talk, we will present our investigations into the metallic properties of copper-alloy loop sistra, or ritual rattles, to reveal the ways in which the materials were manipulated to achieve the desired sound and where that sound falls in the spectral field. The multi-component design of the instrument would have necessitated more than one production methodology to achieve.


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)

Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)

If you’re planning to travel to the event by Metro: The Braddock Road station will be closed from May 25 to September 8, 2019. Go to this web page for alternate travel options (including shuttle buses)—


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.

Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tapjust a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at   


Chelsea Kaufman is a doctoral student with a focus on Egyptian art and archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She received her bachelor’s degree in art and archaeology from Moravian College in 2015 and went on to receive her master’s in archaeological studies from Yale University in 2017. Her master’s thesis utilized petrographic analysis of ceramic sherds from a rock shelter site dated to the 4th millennium BCE in Upper Egypt to identify differences in production technology and morphology illustrating pre-dynastic cultural exchange. 

While at Yale, she worked in the Babylonian Collection and contributed to a 2016 publication of the collection’s Hellenistic seal impressions on Near Eastern bullae, illustrating and mapping the locations of the seals. She later worked as a research assistant in Temple University’s anthropology museum, tasked with identifying and repatriating human remains in the collection and developing cataloging procedures. She is currently a museum assistant at Johns Hopkins Archaeology Museum.

Kaufman also has extensive field work experience. She has excavated both historic and prehistoric sites throughout eastern Pennsylvania, Alabama, and the Outer Hebrides, and most recently she has worked on the Johns Hopkins excavation in Luxor, Egypt.

Combining her research interests with her varied background, she has turned to experimental archaeology to recover the lost production processes of ancient Egyptian metal objects. Through her experiments, she aims to understand the social and cultural meaning of material and technological choices in ancient Egyptian production methodology.

Benjamin Doddy is an undergraduate student in the Materials Engineering program at Loyola University, Maryland, with an interest in archaeometallurgy and experimental archaeology. 

Doddy worked as a structural and bridge steel welder for several years as well as an independent fabricator prior to and while pursuing a college education. For the past few years he has been working as a lab and welding assistant for a graduate materials science research group at Lehigh University. He has also participated in historic and prehistoric archaeological fieldwork in Eastern Pennsylvania.

His current research interests center around copper and copper alloy production in ancient Egypt. Doddy seeks to look beyond the depictions of metalworking found in tombs by utilizing a highly technical and hands-on approach to understand first-hand the trials and triumphs of ancient smiths in light of the limited knowledge available.