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Seven Material Wonders of the Ancient World

Volcanic rock

Event schedule details

Sunday 18 June


Event location details

Room G16, Sir Alexander Fleming Building

Imperial College London (main college entrance)

Architects from Cookies studio (Alice Grégoire, Clément Périssé, Federico Martelli) with Professor Mary Ryan and Dr Ifan Stephens from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London, will discuss seven ancient groundbreaking materials that changed the course of history and science.

From the remarkable properties of Roman concrete in Italy, to legendary Damascus steel in Syria, Chinese inks and bronze alloys, and pre-Columbian gold leaf in South America. All were invented well before the advent of modern science yet led to the creation of advanced materials that still inspire technology and innovation today. We will explore how, when and where these materials emerged; the role of place and craft in their creation, and why science is still investigating their secrets.

Advanced tools allow scientists to decode the inner organization of these amazing materials, and in return help understanding how to create the materials of the future. During a participative workshop open to all, we will explore the concepts of ‘earth as heritage’ - using volcanic rock, clay and other earthly materials to discover the wonders of Roman Concrete, the durable ancestor of contemporary concrete, and maybe the key to a future natural building material discovery.

With thanks to the Higher Education, Research & Innovation department of the French Embassy in the UK for supporting the programming of this event.

Explore the full range of talks from the Art of Science series

Visitor information

Book free advance tickets ahead of the Festival weekend to reserve your place at this event. There will also be drop-in spaces available on the day.

If you register to attend this talk, please arrive 10 minutes before the event begins. If you arrive after this time, your ticket may be reallocated.


To plan your visit, you can download a copy of the timed events schedule and map (pdf) or see the printed programme (pdf)

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Event categories

  • Adults
  • Talks and tours
Volcanic rock