Sarah Wisseman

Sarah Underhill Wisseman

Director, Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials (ATAM)

Background | Research Interests | Selected Publications | Courses | Other Links


After spending my junior year at Tel Aviv University studying biblical archaeology, I received a B.A. in anthropology (1973) from Harvard University. At Bryn Mawr College, I completed my Ph.D in Classical and Near Eastern archaeology in 1981, with advisors Kyle Phillips and Gloria Pinney. After graduation, I worked as an assistant in the conservation laboratory at the Cincinnati Art Museum and then as a curator at the World Heritage Museum at the University of Illinois before joining ATAM. My additional training includes several pottery classes and excavation experience in Israel, Italy, and Nevada.


My primary research is in archaeological science/ archaeometry, with a particular interest in ceramic technology and provenance studies. Recent projects have included provenance studies of North American pipestones, replication and compositional studies of Roman and North American pottery, and an interdisciplinary study of the medical history and embalming practices of an Egyptian mummy

Selected Publications


S. Wisseman, The Virtual Mummy, University of Illinois Press (2003) 64 pp.

S. Wisseman and W. Williams, editors, "Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers (1994) 250 pp. Includes two chapters by S. Wisseman, "From Pots to People: Ceramic Production in the Ancient Mediterranean," and "Imaging the Past: Non-destructive Analyses of an Egyptian Mummy."

S. Wisseman and Laurie McCarthy, Athena's Realm, a guide and catalogue for the Greek gallery at the World Heritage Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1987) 32 pp.

S. Wisseman, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, World Heritage Museum and Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, U.S.A. fascicle 24, published by Von Zabern of W. Germany (1989) 218 pp.

S. Wisseman, J. Isaacson, W. Williams, and T. Riley et al., Instrumental Techniques in Archeological Research, US Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, Technical Report N-88/24 (September 1988) 106 pp.


Sarah U. Wisseman, "Fire-cracked Limestone and Corn Processing," Illinois Archaeology (2010).

Sarah U. Wisseman, Randall E. Hughes, Thomas E. Emerson, and Kenneth B. Farnsworth, “Close to Home? Pipestone Quarry Utilization in the Midcontinental United States,” in Prehistoric Mines and Quarries: a Transatlantic Perspective, eds. Margaret Brewer-LaPorta, Adrian Burke and David Field (2010)

Sarah U. Wisseman, "Tombstone, Marker, or Hoax? Analyses of the Ellington Stone," Illinois Archaeology19:171-178. 2007.

Sarah U. Wisseman, "True Grit: Middle Woodland Cooking and Pot Production," Illinois Archaeology 17:189-200. 2005.

Emerson, T.E., R.E. Hughes, K.B. Farnsworth, S.U. Wisseman, and M. Hynes, “Tremper Mound, Hopewell Catlinite, and PIMA Technology,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 30 (2): 189-216. 2005.

Sarah U. Wisseman, Thomas E. Emerson, Mary R. Hynes, Randall E. Hughes, "Using a Portable Spectrometer to Source Archaeological Materials and to Detect Restorations in Museum Objects," Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, v.43, no.2, pp.129-138 (summer 2004 issue).

S. Wisseman, D. Moore, R. Hughes, M. Hynes, T. Emerson, "Mineralogical Approaches to Sourcing Pipes and Figurines from the Eastern Woodlands, U.S.A." Geoarchaeology 17(7):689-715, 2002.

S. Wisseman, "Preserved for the Afterlife," Nature (October 25, 2001) pp. 783-784.

S. Wisseman, P. Sarin, R. Ousterhout, E. De Sena, W. Williams, "Fresco Pigments from Byzantine Cappadocia, Part II," Archaeometry 98. Proceedings of the 31st International Symposium on Archaeometry, Budapest, 27 April- 1 May 1998. Erzsebet Jerem and Katalin T. Biro, eds. Archaeopress, Oxford.

S. Wisseman, E. De Sena, S. Landsberger, R. Ylangan, S. Altaner, D. Moore, "Compositional Analyses of Ceramics from Serres and Thessaloniki," in Materials Analysis of Byzantine Pottery, H. Maguire, editor, (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1997, pp. 157-170).

S. Wisseman, "Materials Analysis of the Nasca Drum," Birds on a Drum: Conservation of a Pre-Columbian Musical Instrument, editors (Krannert Art Museum exhibition catalogue, 1996) pp. 18-20.

S. Wisseman, E. De Sena, J. T. Pena, and S. Landsberger, "Neutron Activation Analysis of Roman Fineware Pottery from the Palatine Hill, Rome" in The Ceramics Cultural Heritage (Faenza, 1994).

S. Wisseman,"The Materials Analysis of Serres Pottery," in Ceramic Art from Byzantine Serres, edited by D. Papanikola-Bakirtzis, E.D. Maguire, and H. Maguire, University of Illinois Press (October 1992).


I teach Anthropology 221, "Materials and Civilization: An Overview of Archaeometry," for which I received the Broadrick-Allen Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching in May 1998.

Other Links

Program on Ancient Techologies and Archaeological Materials, University of Illinois

Archaeological mysteries by Sarah Wisseman

Interview with Bryn Mawr College's Science and Technology magazine (June 2008)

Top of Page |