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Biography: Melina Smirniou

Melina Smirniou

Melina Smirniou was awarded a Rakow Grant for Glass Research. The subject of her research is glass associated with the Silk Road, a network of routes linking various East and West cultures and civilizations for over 2,000 years. Her project concerns the role of glass at Otrar, which she describes as “one of the most significant historical settlements in Kazakhstan, situated on one of the main branches of the Silk Road” during the eighth and ninth centuries.

“Glass and long-distance exchanges have been extensively studied in the past,” says Dr. Smirniou. “However, the focus has mostly been on the ends of the Silk Road, the Mediterranean and East Asia. This is the first systematic study to be undertaken examining the role of glass in the heart of these networks in central Eurasia.” It will explore how technologies associated with glass production developed in that region during the early Islamic period.

In an attempt to gain a better understanding of distribution networks along the center of the Silk Road, Dr. Smirniou will analyze previously unstudied 8th- and 9th-century glasses from Otrar.

“By characterizing the chemical signature of glass, it is possible to illustrate how and where glass was primarily produced,” she explains. “Identifying the major, minor, and trace elements of the glass composition establishes the origin of the glass production centers, which then provides a basis for reconstructing consumption patterns and distribution chains. The major compositional transition periods where changes in raw materials and glass production processes occur are of prime interest to establish a detailed picture of the complexity of glass technology at times of new developments.”

Samples of the glasses from Otrar will be analyzed using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) at the University of Orléans in France.

Dr. Smirniou was awarded her doctorate in archaeological science and two master’s degrees in conservation from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London (UCL). Before assuming her current position at the University of Lincoln, she was a visiting lecturer in conservation studies at UCL Qatar in Doha, a research fellow at The British School at Athens, and objects conservator in the Stone, Mosaics, and Wall Paintings Section at The British Museum in London.