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Dr Ben Stern

PositionLecturer in Archaeological Sciences
LocationL23b, Richmond building
DepartmentSchool of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences
Telephone+44 (0) 1274 236054

Research Interests (key words only)

Archaeological science. Molecular archaeology, residue analysis and natural product geochemistry. Analytical chemistry: Gas Chromatography and Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (GC, GC-MS), Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), Stable light isotopic ratios (Isotope Ratio-MS), High Performance Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS).

Teaching and Supervisory Responsibilities

Programme manager for the MSc Analytical Sciences.
Module leader of a large number of modules from first year to Master's level.


Ben is currently a Lecturer in Archaeological Sciences.
Ben’s role is divided between Archaeology, Chemistry and the Analytical Centre.

Study History

Ben Stern has a BSc in Chemistry (1992, Bristol) and a PhD “Biomineral lipids in living and fossil molluscs” (1996, Newcastle).

Professional History

Ben first came to Bradford in 1996 as a NERC funded postdoctoral research assistant working on a project entitled “New approaches to the study of commodities transported to Egypt in the Late Bronze age Canaanite amphorae”.

Research Areas

Ben's research falls at the interface between analytical chemistry and archaeology.

He is interested in the identification of the ‘archaeologically invisible’ by the correct application of analytical techniques. Some techniques are now fairly routine (such as Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (GC, GC-MS), Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and stable light isotopic ratios (Isotope Ratio-MS)), although these techniques may have not been applied to novel materials. Some are new (e.g. High Performance Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry, HPLC-MS), but all require careful application due to problems of small sample size, contamination, complex mixtures, degradation and the reliability of the biomarker approach.

Further details and some case studies.

Archaeologically the aims are to find direct molecular, trace element and isotopic evidence for the identification and use of archaeological materials including ceramic vessels, traded goods and soils (in combination with conventional archaeological evidence). Related areas of interest include the analysis of modern natural products their degradation and preservation.


See Ben's publications on Bradford Scholars.

  • Brettell R.,·Martin W., Atherton-Woolham S., Stern B. and McKnight L. (2015) Organic residue analysis of Egyptian votive mummies and their research potential. Studies in Conservation, 10; DOI:10.1179/2047058415Y.0000000027

  • Brettell, R. C., E. M. J. Schotsmans, P. Walton Rogers, N. Reifarth, R. C. Redfern, B. Stern, and C. P. Heron, (2015) ‘Choicest unguents’: molecular evidence for the use of resinous plant exudates in late Roman mortuary rites in Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science, 53, 639-648
  • Brettell, R. C., B. Stern, N. Reifarth, and C. Heron, (2014) The ‘Semblance of Immortality'? Resinous Materials and Mortuary Rites in Roman Britain, Archaeometry, 56(3), 444-459
  • Brettell R., Martin W., Atherton-Woolham S., Stern B. and McKnight L. (2015) Organic residue analysis of Egyptian votive mummies and their research potential. Studies in Conservation, 10; DOI:10.1179/2047058415Y.0000000027
  • Bradshaw F., Thompson G. and Stern B. (accepted) Archaeological 'dammar' resins from the West mouth. Editor Graeme Barker "the Niah Cave Project" Chapter 24
  • Brettell R. C., Stern B., Reifarth N. and Heron C. (in press 2013). The 'semblance of immortality'? Resinous materials and mortuary rites in Roman Britain. Archaeometry, DOI:10.1111/arcm.12027
  • Brettell R., Melton N. and Stern B. (submitted) Organic Geochemical Analysis of Sediments from a Shell Midden. NABO book. Journal of the North Atlantic
  • Mayyas A., Stern B., Coningham R.A.E., Fazeli H. and Gillmore G. (2012) Beeswax preserved in a Late Chalcolithic Bevelled Rim bowl from the Tehran Plain, Iran. Iran 50, 13-25
  • Abdel-Ghani M., Stern B., Edwards H.G.M., Janaway R. (2012). A study of 18th century Coptic icons of Ibrahim Al-Nasekh using Raman microscopy and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry: Indigo as an organic pigment in Egyptian panel paintings. Vibrational Spectroscopy, 62, 98-109.
  • Tukur A., Sharp L., Stern B., Tizaoui C. and Benkreira H. (2012) PET bottle use patterns and antimony migration into bottled water and soft drinks: the case of British and Nigerian bottles. J. Environ. Monit. 14, 1237-1247. DOI: 10.1039/C2EM10917D
  • Stern B. (in press) Analysis of samples by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. In: J. Balen. ¿akovo-Franjevac, Late neolithic settlement, publisher Archaeological museum, Zagreb. p 148-155
  • Serpico M. and Stern B. (2011) The contents of jars in Hatsheput’s foundation deposit at Deir El-Bahri and their significance for trade. In: Under the potters' tree: Studies on Ancient Egypt Presented to Janine Bourriau on the Occasion of her 70th Birthday, series Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 204, 843-844
  • Nordby C.C. and Stern B. (in press 2011) Analysis of the brown organic inlay on the putative purse bar from Skonsvika. Part III, Artifacts, architecture and chronology. Appendix 13.1
  • Steele V.J., Stern B. and Stott A.W. (2010) Olive oil or lard?: Distinguishing plant oils from animal fats in the archaeological record of the eastern Mediterranean using gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 24: 3478–3484. DOI: 10.1002/rcm.4790
  • Knüsel C.J., M. Batt C.M., Cook G., Montgomery J., Müldner G., Ogden A.R., Palmer C., Stern B., Todd J. and Wilson A. (2010) The St Bees Lady: A Medieval Osteobiography, Medieval Archaeology, 54, 271-311 (Winner of the 2010 Martyn Jope Award). DOI: 10.1179/174581710X12790370815931
  • Haldane E.A., Gillies S., O’Connor S., Batt C. and Stern B. (2010) Integrated Multi-spectral Imaging, Analysis and Treatment of an Egyptian Tunic/. P 237-245. In: Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice, edited by Lennard F. and Ewer P., Butterworth-Heinemann, Amsterdam
  • Heron C., Nilsen G, Stern B., Craig O., Nordby C. (2010) Application of lipid biomarker analysis to evaluate the function of 'slab-lined pits' in Arctic Norway, Journal of Archaeological Science, 37, 2188-2197. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2010.03.016
  • Awal M.A., Hale W.H.G. and Stern B. (2009) Trace element concentrations in mangrove forest soils in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58, 1944-1948. DOI:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.08.016
  • Clelland S., Batt C.M., Stern B. and R. Jones (2009) Scientific Analysis of Steatite: recent results. In A.K. Forster and V.E. Turner (eds.) Kleber: Shetland's Oldest Industry. Shetland Soapstone Since Prehistory. Lerwick: Shetland Amenity Trust. 106-117
  • Abdel-Ghani, M., H. G. M. Edwards, B. Stern & R. Janaway 2009. Publications.AbdelGhanietal2009Characterization of paint and varnish on a medieval Coptic-Byzantine icon: Novel usage of dammar resin? Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy 73: 566-575
  • Clelland, S.J., C. M. Batt, B. Stern & R. Jones. 2009.Scientific analysis of steatite: Recent results. In A. Forster and V.E. Turner (eds) Kleber: Shetland’s Oldest Industry. Shetland Soapstone since prehistory. 106-117 Shetland Heritage Publications, Lerwick
  • Edwards, H. G. M., B. Stern, L. Burgio & M. Kite 2009. Analysis of yellow "fat" deposits on Inuit boots? Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy 73: 561-565
  • Haldane, E. A., S. Gillies, S. O’Connor, C. Batt & B. Stern 2009. Waking the dead: scientific analysis of an Egyptian Tunic? V&A Conservation Journal 57: 22-23
  • Marangou, C. & B. Stern 2009. Neolithic zoomorphic vessels from Eastern Macedonia, Greece: Issues of function. Archaeometry 51: 397-412
  • Johnson B. and Waddington C. with contributions by Baker P., Bronk Ramsey C., Clogg P., Cook G., Cotton J., Hamilton D., Marshall P. and Stern B. (2008) Prehistoric and Dark Age settlement remains from Cheviot Quarry, Milfield Basin, Northumberland. Archaeological Journal, 165, 107-264
  • Abdel-Ghani, M., H. G. M. Edwards, R. Janaway & B. Stern 2008. A Raman Microscopic and Gas Chromatographic- Mass Spectrometric Study of Two 19th Century Overlapping Coptic icons of Anastasy Al-Romi. ICAVS-4 special issue Vibrational Spectroscopy 48: 69-75
  • Stern, B., J. Connan, E. Blakelock, R. Jackman, R. A. E. Coningham & C. Heron 2008. From Susa to Anuradhapura: Reconstructing aspects of trade and exchange in bitumen-coated ceramic vessels between Iran and Sri Lanka from the Third to the Ninth Centuries AD. Archaeometry 50: 409-428
  • Stern, B., C. Heron, T. Tellefsen & M. Serpico 2008. New investigations into the Uluburun resin cargo. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 2188-2203
  • Stern, B., C. D. Lampert Moore, C. Heron & A. M. Pollard 2008. Bulk stable light isotopic ratios in recent and archaeological resins: Towards detecting the transport of resins in antiquity? Archaeometry 50: 351-370
  • Craig, O. E., M. Forster, S. H. Andersen, E. Koch, P. Crombé, N. J. Milner, B. Stern, G. N. Bailey & C. P. Heron 2007. Molecular and isotopic demonstration of the processing of aquatic products in northern European prehistoric pottery. Archaeometry 49: 135-152
  • Edwards, H. G. M., B. Stern, S. E. Jorge Villar & R. David 2007. Combined FT-Raman spectroscopic and mass spectrometric study of ancient Egyptian sarcophagal fragments. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 387: 829-836
  • Gregg, M. W., R. Brettell & B. Stern 2007. Bitumen in Neolithic Iran: Biomolecular and isotopic evidence. In M. D. Glascock, R. J. Speakman and R. S. Popelka-Filcoff (ed.) Archaeological Chemistry: Analytical Techniques and Archaeological Interpretation. Symposium series: 137-151. Washington: American Chemical Society
  • Heron, C., O. E. Craig, M. Forster, B. Stern & S. H. Anderson 2007. Residue analysis of ceramics from prehistoric shell middens in Denmark: Initial investigations at Norsminde and Bjørnsholm. In N. J. Milner, O. E. Craig and G. N. Bailey (ed.) Shell-Middens in Atlantic Europe: 78-85. Oxford: Oxbow
  • Pollard, M., C. M. Batt, B. Stern & S. Young 2007. Analytical Chemistry in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Steele, V. J., B. Stern & C. Knappett 2007. Organic residue analysis of Red Lustrous Wheelmade Ware from five sites in the Eastern Mediterranean. In I. Hein (ed.) The Lustrous Wares of Late Bronze Age Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean - Papers of a conference held in Vienna, 5-6 November 2004: 191-196. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (OAW)
  • Vlachou-Mogire, C., B. Stern & J. G. McDonnell 2007. The application of LA-ICP-MS in the examination of the thin plating layers found in late Roman coins. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 265: 558-568
  • Wilson, A. S., M. P. Richards, B. Stern, R. C. Janaway, A. M. Pollard & D. J. Tobin 2007. Information on Grauballe man from his hair. In P. Asingh and N. Lynnerup (ed.) Grauballe Man: An Iron Age Bog Body Revisited: 188-195. Moesgaard: Jutland Archaeological Society
  • Wilson, A. S., T. Taylor, M. C. Ceruti, J. A. Chavez, J. Reinhard, V. Grimes, W. Meier-Augenstein, L. Cartmell, B. Stern, M. P. Richards, M. Worobey, I. Barnes & M. T. P. Gilbert 2007. Stable isotope and DNA evidence for ritual sequences in Inca child sacrifice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 16456-16461
  • Abdel-Ghani, M., R. Janaway, B. Stern & H. Edwards 2006. Analytical Investigation into a 13th Century Coptic - Byzantine Icon Using Raman Spectroscopy. In H. Hanna (ed.) Icon and Portrait International Conference, 18-20 September 2006, Alexandria, Egypt: 87-96. Cairo: Saint Mena Monastery Press
  • Gibson, A. & B. Stern 2006. Report on the University of Bradford Pilot Project into the Absorbed Residue Analysis of Bronze Age Pigmy Cups from Scotland, England and Wales. In A. Gibson (ed.) Prehistoric Pottery: Some Recent Research: British Archaeological Reports International Series 1509. 69-78. Oxford: Archaeopress
  • Stern, B., S. J. Clelland, C. C. Nordby & D. Urem-Kotsou 2006. Bulk stable light isotopic ratios in archaeological birch bark tars. Applied Geochemistry 21: 1668-1673
  • Eichhorn, B., S. Hendrickx, H. Riemer & B. Stern 2005. Desert roads and transport vessels from Late Roman-Coptic times in the Eastern Sahara. Journal of African Archaeology 3: 213-229
  • Ford, L. A., A. M. Pollard, R. A. E. Coningham & B. Stern 2005. A geochemical investigation of the origin of Rouletted and other related South Asian fine wares. Antiquity 79: 909-920
  • Knappett, C., V. Kilikoglou, V. Steele & B. Stern 2005. The Circulation and Consumption of Red Lustrous Wheelmade ware: petrographic, chemical and residue analysis. Journal of Anatolian Studies 55: 25-59
  • Lampert, C. D., I. C. Glover, R. E. M. Hedges, C. P. Heron, T. F. G. Higham, B. Stern, R. Shoocongdej & G. B. Thompson 2004. AMS radiocarbon dating of resins on ceramics: Results from Spirit Cave, Thailand. In T. Higham, C. Bronk Ramsey and C. Owen (ed.) Radiocarbon and Archaeology: Fourth International Symposium: 161-169. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph
  • Lampert, C. D., I. C. Glover, R. E. M. Hedges, C. P. Heron, T. F. G. Higham, B. Stern, R. Shoocongdej & G. B. Thompson 2004. Response to comment on dates from a resin-coated sherd from Spirit Cave, Thailand (J.C. White). Antiquity 78: 186-187
  • Ross, A. & B. Stern 2004. A preliminary report on the analysis of organic materials from Ismant el-Kharab. In G. E. Bowen and C. A. Hope (ed.) Oasis Papers III: Proceedings of the Third International Conference of the Dakhleh Oasis Project: 365-371. Oxford: Oxbow
  • Serpico, M. & B. Stern 2004. Salvaging the past: Analysis of First Dynasty Jar Contents in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. In S. Hendrickx, R. F. Friedman, K. M. Cialowicz and M. Chlodnicki (ed.) Egypt at its Origins. Studies in Memory of Barbara Adams. Proceedings of the International Conference "Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt", Kraków, 28th August - 1st September 2002: 1011-1026. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Leuven: Peeters Publishing
  • Lampert, C. D., I. C. Glover, R. E. M. Hedges, C. P. Heron, T. F. G. Higham, B. Stern, R. Shoocongdej & G. B. Thompson 2003. Dating resin coating on pottery: the Spirit Cave early ceramic dates revised. Antiquity 77: 126-133
  • Lampert, C. D., I. C. Glover, C. P. Heron, B. Stern, R. Shoocongdej & G. B. Thompson 2003. Resinous residues on prehistoric pottery from Southeast Asia: characterisation and radiocarbon dating. In A. Kallen and A. Karlstrom (ed.) Fishbones and glittering emblems: Proceedings of 9th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities: 203-206. Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities
  • Serpico, M., J. Bourriau, L. Smith, Y. Goren, B. Stern & C. Heron 2003. Commodities and Containers: A Project to Study Canaanite Amphorae Imported into Egypt during the New Kingdom. In M. Bietak (ed.) The Synchronisation of Civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium BC II: 365-375. Haindorf: Proceedings of the SCIEM2000 Euro-Conference
  • Stern, B., C. Heron, L. Corr, M. Serpico & J. Bourriau 2003. Compositional variation in aged and heated pistacia resin found in Late Bronze Age Canaanite amphorae and bowls from Amarna, Egypt. Archaeometry 45: 457-469
  • Lampert, C. D., I. C. Glover, C. P. Heron, B. Stern, R. Shoocongdej & G. B. Thompson 2002. The characterization and radiocarbon dating of archaeological resins from Southeast Asia. In K. A. Jakes (ed.) Archaeological Chemistry - Materials, methods, and meaning: 84-109. Washington DC: American Chemical Society
  • Urem-Kotsou, D., K. Kotsakis & B. Stern 2002. Defining function in Neolithic ceramics: the example of Makriyalos, Greece. In M. Budja (ed.) Documenta praehistorica XXIX: 109-118. Ljubljana: 9th Neolithic studies
  • Urem-Kotsou, D., B. Stern, C. Heron & K. Kotsakis 2002. Birch-bark tar at Neolithic Makriyalos, Greece. Antiquity 76: 962-967
  • Wilson, A. S., R. A. Dixon, H. I. Dodson, R. C. Janaway, A. M. Pollard, B. Stern & D. J. Tobin 2001. Yesterday's Hair - Human Hair in Archaeology. Biologist 48: 213-217
  • Wilson, A. S., R. A. Dixon, R. C. Janaway, A. M. Pollard, B. Stern & D. J. Tobin 2001. Yesterday's Hair - Human Hair in Archaeology. Biologist 48: 213-217
  • Stern, B., C. Heron, J. Bourriau & M. Serpico 2000. A comparison of methods for establishing fatty acid concentration gradients across potsherds: A case study using Late Bronze Age Canaanite amphorae. Archaeometry 42: 399-414

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