In the 1980s, Thilo Rehren studied mineralogy and geochemistry in Germany, with emphasis on economic geology and volcanology. During the 1990s he worked as research scientist at the German Mining Museum in Bochum, where he helped setting up the newly-founded Institute for Archaeometallurgy. During this time, he specialized on the role of crucibles in archaeometallurgy, from casting and alloying to the production of brass and crucible steel, and the refining of gold and silver. He also worked on the earliest platinum coinage from 19th century Russia, Roman zinc metal, and Late Bronze Age glass in Egypt.
Throughout the 2000s, he served as the inaugural Chair in Archaeological Materials and Technologies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, establishing an MSc programme in archaeological materials and technologies, and over the years, supervising more than 30 PhD students from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe; many of these now hold leading academic positions around the globe. His research during this time focused on the first discovery of LBA glass making in Egypt and the experimental reconstruction of the technology, further work on Central Asian crucible steel making. In close collaboration with his PhD students, he expanded further into global archaeometallurgy including the smelting of iron, copper, lead and silver, with fieldwork in Uzbekistan, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Egypt and elsewhere. A further focus was on the study of early chemistry arising from metallurgical analytical practice of the 16th century. The first half of the 2010s he spent establishing and leading UCL Qatar, a new department of UCL situated in Doha, dedicated to postgraduate teaching and research in Islamic Archaeology, Conservation, Museum Studies and Library and Information Studies. During this time he led three major research projects focusing on quarrying in Sudan, Byzantine glass production and trade, and Iron Age copper metallurgy in Arabia, respectively, and was invited by the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities to lead the first comprehensive scientific study of the gold mask of Tutankhamun since its discovery 100 years ago.
In 2017 he moved to Cyprus where he worked for five years as Director of the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center at the Cyprus Institute; following his appointment as A.G. Leventis Professor for Archaeological Sciences at the same Institute in 2018 he is focusing his research on archaeological materials science in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, and the closer integration of different branches of archaeological science into a coherent research agenda.
For more than ten years he served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Archaeological Science, overseeing its rapid expansion and broadening of the author base. He continues to be Associate Editor for JAS and several other journals, and is a frequent peer reviewer for academic journals and numerous national and international funding agencies.
He has published several hundred peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and edited more than a dozen books. His h-index currently is 50, with an i10-index of over 200 and more than 700 citations annually over the last seven years.
Alipour, R., Rehren, Th. and Martinón-Torres, M. 2021. Chromium crucible steel was first made in Persia. Journal of Archaeological Science 127, 105224, 1-14.
Radivojević, M., Roberts, B., Marić, M., Kuzmanović Cvetković, J. & Rehren, Th. (eds), The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia (Archaeopress, Oxford), 676pp.
Rehren, Th., Penkova, P. and Pernicka, E. 2020. The chalcolithic copper smelting at Akladi Cheiri. In: R. Krauß, E. Pernicka, R. Kunze, K. Dimitrov, P. Leshtakov (eds), Prehistoric Mining and Metallurgy at the Southeast Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, 137-156.
Lin, YX., Rehren, Th., Wang, H., Ren, XY. & Ma, J. 2019. The beginning of faience in China: a review and new evidence. Journal of Archaeological Science 105, 97-115.
Mei, Jianjun and Rehren, Th. (eds) (2009): Metallurgy and Civilisation: Eurasia and Beyond. London, Archetype.