Mediterranean Archaeological Research Institute

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Research area and mission statement

The research interest of the Mediterranean Archaeological Research Institute (MARI) focuses in particular on Cyprus and the Near East during the Bronze and Iron Ages. By viewing the material cultural of Cyprus and the Levant in relation to the material culture of the entire Mediterranean world, MARI aims at contributing to the elucidation of the socio-economic and cultural history of the Mediterranean world in antiquity. Two of our research projects, however, have a broader chronological and geographical scope as they centre on the study of the chaîne opératoire of two particular glass categories in northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean during, respectively, Roman and medieval times.


The Mediterranean Archaeological Research Institute is a research centre within the department of Art Sciences and Archaeology and the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.  Within our university, MARI is member of Earth System Science Group. We particularly collaborate with the Department of Geology and the Department of Applied Physics and Photonics. Nationally, MARI teams up with the Royal Museums of History and Art and the universities of Leuven (KULeuven) and Antwerp (UA). Internationally, members of MARI collaborate with the Science and Technology in Archaeology Research Center (STARC) of the Cyprus Institute, the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus and the American University in Beirut.


1. Since 1971, Paul Åström led 28 Swedish archaeological campaigns at the Late Bronze Age town near the mosque of Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus. Karin Nys joined the excavations in 1997 and she became assistant-director of this mission in 2001. After the untimely death of Paul Åström in October 2008, she was put in charge of the post-excavation processing of all the unpublished Swedish excavation campaigns (1980-2005). With the support of a grant of the Research Foundation Flanders, MARI started the study of ceramics and coroplastic art of Hala Sultan Tekke in 2004 (FWO grant KN137).

2. Ensuing from the latter study, a multidisciplinary project with Philippe Claeys of the Geology Department at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel started in 2007. The aimis to studthe relation between men and palaeoenvironment in south-east Cyprus (HOA 11). Within this project, we also focus on the dentification of the provenance of raw material utilized in the production of pottery during the Late Bronze Age. This research tests the use of lead and strontium isotopic signatures as a tracer of the pottery sources. Jan Coenaerts (MARI) and Virginie Renson (GEOL) are pursuing doctoral research in the framework of this project.

3. Melissa Samaes’s research focuses on sustainability in the past, more specifically on Late Bronze Age Cyprus. Her case-study concentrates on Hala Sultan Tekke and Kition and complements the aforementioned multidisciplinary geoarchaeological study of men and palaeoenvironment in southeast Cyprus. Her doctoral research concentrates on the architecture of Hala Sultan Tekke.

4. Ariane Jacobs's doctoral research also pertains to the Cypriote Bronze Age: she studies the social stratification at Alassa during Late Cypriote II-III (c. 1425-1050 BCE) with a particular focus on the Plain wares.

5. In Syria, Eric Gubel directs the excavation of Area I at Tell Kazel (ancient Sumur-Simyrra) in the context of the American University of Beirut excavation project (Director: Leila Badre). Uncovering the oldest Phoenician sanctuary on the Syro-Lebanese coast, research focuses on the material culture of the former kingdom of Amurru and its Mediterranean connections throughout the Iron Ages.

6. The Cypriot imports at the Syrian coastal sites of Tell Kazel and Tell Tweini are under study by Karin Nys and Karmen Middernacht since 2009.

7. In the framework of a vast project on glyptic productions in the Levant, Vanessa Boschloos prepares a doctoral dissertation on the propagation of Egyptian scarabs in the Northern Levant. She is also participating in the Tell Kazel excavations.

8. Peter Cosyns studies the production and use of black glass in the entire Roman Empire during the 1st to 5th centuries AD. His doctoral research covers a diachronic study of a very specific subject within the Roman glass production by means of three different approaches – an archaeological one, a historical one and an archaeometric one.

9. Within the broader framework of a multidisciplinary research project that aims at developing a low-cost device for optic analyses based on the colour and the composition of glass (HOA 15), Hilde Wouters investigates the ways in which the Cistercian monasteries in northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean countries were glazed.


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