Khurram Saleem

Nationality: Pakistan
Professional associations: PhD candidate in ROOTS, Christian Albrechts University Kiel, Germany
EAA member since: 2020

TEA: Why do you do archaeology/How did you decide to get into it?

K. Saleem: My work is interdisciplinary between material science and archaeology. I use material characterisation techniques to understand the functional, structural and chemical properties of ancient artefacts. My interest in the material characterisation and the interdisciplinary nature of ROOTS where I have the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds made me decide to work within archaeology.

TEA: What is the most important and relevant part of your work? 

K. Saleem: The most important and relevant part of my work is to help develop novel techniques to answer fundamental archaeological questions related to the excavated materials. These techniques have not been widely utilised in archaeology because of the challenges they pose, such as the inability to do invasive characterisation since the artefacts under analysis in most cases should remain in their original shape before and after the analyses. Part of my job is to overcome these challenges and relate the results with archaeological perspective to gain new viewpoints.

TEA: How do you see archaeology changing in the future? 

K. Saleem: It is hard to predict the future of archaeology as someone coming from a non-archaeology background. However, we are living in times where technology is at the forefront across all disciplines and archaeology is no exception. It is safe to say that the archaeology of the future will be increasingly multidisciplinary and have technology at its core. I believe that the research capabilities in archaeology will be further enhanced by introducing new scientific methods involving artificial intelligence, material science and even robotics.

TEA: What/How does archaeology contribute to society at large? 

K. Saleem: Archaeology provides us the unique opportunity to examine past societies and their evolution over time. Examining the changes in past societies, the reasons for those changes and finding patterns can contribute to understand the problems of today and help us build a more sustainable society in the future.

TEA: What archaeology literature are you reading right now? 

K. Saleem: Right now, I am reading research articles related to the corrosion mechanism of ancient soil-buried copper-based artefacts and their micro-chemical analyses using electron microscopy. These studies are conducted to identify the elements in the original artefacts and separate them from the contaminants on the surface that could give misleading information in terms of the raw material, production mechanism and presence of certain elements within the artefacts.

TEA: Describe your workspace in five words or less

K. Saleem: Coffee, writing pad, computer and me.

TEA: What is the one piece of gear that you can't live without in the field?

K. Saleem: A microscope. I do not go into the field for my archaeological work, but the microscope is fundamental to my work in the lab.

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Image courtesy of K. Saleem

Neolithic copper axe inside Focused Ion Beam (FIB) chamber for imaging and sample preparation. Image courtesy of K. Saleem.

Perhaps a less dusty workplace than that of many other archaeologists? Image at left courtesy of K. Saleem.