Rebecca Stacey


+44 (0)20 7323 8884


Rebecca’s expertise is in the characterisation of amorphous natural organic materials such as varnishes, adhesives and food residues. Her research applies chemical analysis to address questions concerning the source, production, use and alteration of these materials throughout the Museum’s collections. Her main interests are natural products such as resins, tars, gums and waxes.

Rebecca’s background is in archaeological sciences. She later specialised in analytical chemistry applied to ancient organic materials, in particular food residues. She further developed her skills in organic analysis in the commercial sector before joining the British Museum in 2001.

Rebecca maintains the Museum’s gas chromatography and mass spectrometry facilities.

Current projects

Nebamun wall-paintings (media and varnishes)

Mesoamerican copal resins

Orthodox Icons (varnishes and media)

Fitzwilliam Museum Egyptian coffin catalogue (varnishes, glues and media)

Previous projects

Roman ointments

Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico

The Blackening of Egyptian Blue

Recent publications

R.J. Stacey, ‘Materials and techniques of the paintings: paint media and varnishes’, in The Nebamun Wall Paintings: Conservation, Scientific Examination and Re-Display, A. Middleton and K. Uprichard (eds), (Archtype, London, forthcoming)

Janet Ambers, Rebecca Stacey and John H Taylor, ‘Writing that cannot be erased: Investigations of a box of pigmented inlays from the tomb chapel of an Old Kingdom noble’ in British Museum Technical Bulletin 1, (2007), pp. 49-50

C. McEwan, A. Middleton, C. Cartwright and R. Stacey, Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico. (The British Museum Press, London, 2006)

R.J. Stacey, C.R. Cartwright and C. McEwan, 'Chemical Characterisation of Ancient Mesoamerican ‘Copal’ Resins: Preliminary Results.' Archaeometry 48, (2006), pp. 323-340.

R.J. Stacey, 'Scientific examination of the Asby Scar sword and scabbard (203) - Chemical analysis of organic material', in British Iron Age Swords and Scabbards, I. Stead (ed.), (The British Museum Press, London, 2006)

V. Daniels, R. Stacey, A. Middleton, 'The blackening of Egyptian Blue', Studies in Conservation, 49 (2004) pp. 217-230

C. Heron, R. Appleby, J. Frith and R. Stacey, 'Sweetness and light: chemical evidence for beeswax at tallow candles at Fountains Abbey', Medieval Archaeology, XLVIII (2004), pp. 220-227

R. Stacey, 'Evidence for the use of birch-bark tar from Iron Age Britain.' PAST, 47 (2004), pp. 1-2

O. E. Craig, J. Mulville, M. Parker Pearson, R. Sokol, K. Gelsthorpe, R. Stacey, and M. J. Collins, 'Detecting milk proteins in ancient pots.' Nature, 408 (2000), p. 312

R. J. Stacey, C. Heron, and M. Q. Sutton, 'The chemistry, archaeology and ethnography of a Native American insect resin', Journal of California and Great Basin Archaeology, 20 (1995), pp. 53-71