Robert B. J. Mason

Associate Professor; Archaeological Scientist and Database Technician at the ROM
Royal Ontario Museum, Room 606, 100 Queen's Park, Toronto, ON, M5S 2C6

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Archaeometry
  • The archaeology and anthropology of material culture
  • The context of technological development
  • The mechanisms of long-distance exchange
  • The initiation, mobility, and transmission of technological change
  • The context of production, especially of ceramics
  • The Archaeology of Sacred Spaces


Robert Mason has had an interest in archaeology and geology since childhood, participating in his first excavation in his 14th summer. At school, however, his career advisor told him there was no future in archaeology, so he tried Art College at first. This did not go well and so he got a job with the archaeological unit of the City of Southampton, England, on the strength of previous summer experience. After a number of years excavating castles and burghs, he emigrated to Canada, and acquired a bachelor's degree in Anthropology (archaeology) and Geology at the University of Toronto. Having already published research on the application of geological techniques in the study of archaeological ceramics, he immediately went to the University of Oxford, where in 1994 he was awarded a DPhil for his research on the petrography, chemistry and typology of the glazed pottery made in the Middle East between about 600 and 1600 AD. Apart from his appointment at the UofT, Mason also works at the Royal Ontario Museum where he does a lot of cataloguing.

Mason's archaeological fieldwork was based in Syria from 1998 until 2009, initially at the citadel of Aleppo, and from 2004 at the monastery of St. Moses (Deir Mar Musa).  The monastery, 90 km north of Damascus in the mountainous Syrian desert, was the focus of Mason's survey of the site and its environs, recording a sacred landscape that may originally have dated to the Neolithic. Research at the monastery led to a growing research interest in the archaeology of Christianity and monotheism generally in the Holy Land, and of sacred spaces.


PhD, University of Oxford