BAJ Podcast Recap – Ep 57, Marcos Martinón-Torres

BAJ Podcast Summary

This month on the BAJ podcast, Sofie Boons is joined by Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres, who has been tracing the fascinating history of gold and other luxurious materials in various places and across segments of time. 

Sofie expands the discussion beyond gold and delves into the broader concept of materiality. She highlights the importance of examining the connection between academia and science, which can aid in understanding the significance of metals in our society.

Sofie and Marcos discuss the topic of materiality through looking at gold, a complex material that holds a unique position in society.  Through the intersectionality of “the field and the laboratory,” Marcos believes that archaeology fundamentally tackles wider humanitarian questions such as “who we are, where do we come from, why do we act the way we do.”  Through his findings, we explore these questions through the lens of materiality and gold. This podcast episode will tackle these questions, and how Marcos’ work is contributing to the greater understanding of how materiality can help us understand social behaviours.  

While learning about Marcos’ work, we also are posed with the question of what role materials and metals play in our own lives. 

About Marcos

Marcos is the Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge and researches the archaeology of alchemy and metals. On top of this he is the co-editor of the Journal of Archaeological Science as well as co-leading at the Cambridge Heritage Science Hub (CHERISH).  

About Marcos’ Work

What makes Marcos’ work unique from other archaeological practices, is that instead of specialising in a particular region or period, he specialises in the use of scientific techniques to address archaeological questions. Marcos has created a bridge “in between the field and the laboratory.”  

Marcos describes his work as offering him a perspective on the best sides of the fields of science and academia. He enjoys academia because of the intellectually stimulating nature of the environment and more importantly: the students.  

Marcos has a fascination with metals, as he believes that it is the most important element of archaeology. Metals are the foundation of all materials, from the jewellery that you create for a loved one, to the knife that is used to kill your enemy. Marcos believes that metals are more than just a technical material. From an anthropological point of view, it is a material that “keeps on giving” as cultural and social movements can come from the utilisation of these metals.  

Marcos’ interest in metals lies in gold, as he believes it is a unique metal in both physical and emotional ways. Physically, gold has a unique yellow colour that is malleable while never tarnishing. Emotionally, gold represents a rare luxury that is a universal currency and status symbol.  

Marcos emphasises the importance of studying past practices to predict future outcomes of society and how they are affected by materiality. In his position of being involved in the intersection of academia and material manufacturing, Marcos expresses his unique perspective on how metals have an impact on society.  

To listen to the full discussion and to learn more about Marcos, click here.

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