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Photo: furiobradyal via flickr
The Irish Times today has an interesting article relating to research on past landscapes of the Burren. A place transformed by the actions of ancient Irish people and livestock into the strange mix of archaeology, botany and tourism it is now.
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Silvio's Residence. Photo: kabatology via flickr
Archaeology is a political animal and we Irish know it well. However, it rarely has such direct potency as has been demonstrated by recent revelations about Italy's playboy PM. Apparently a secretly recorded tape of the prime minister showing a lady-friend around his gardens includes a section where he boasts about a number of Phoenician burials found during the construction of a lake. A seemingly inoccuous revelation, but not when Italian law provides for a 1 year jail sentence for people who don't report archaeological finds.
Could archaeology oust a man seemingly immune to attacks based on corruption, monopolisation of the media and sex scandals have failed? A classic case of the political classes ignoring archaeology at their peril!
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This post is a call for help rather than anything informative I'm afraid. I have been thinking more and more recently about how beneficial (and interesting) it would be for my PhD research to do some experimental iron smelting and/or smithing.
However, setting up a reconstructed bloomery iron furnace requires a lot of work. First of all I need to find a space where I can burn a fire at over 1000 degrees. It needs to be in an open space and somewhere where the noise of forging won't bother the neighbours (so not my back garden in the heart of Dublin!).
I also need to get hold of a significant amount of clay for the superstructre as well as charcoal and ore for the smelt. Ideally, the charcoal should be made from oak and it would be an interesting experiment in itself to try and produce it from scratch. The ore should probably come from a bog so if anyone out there knows of a bog with a good supply please do let me know. Of course, some practical experience would be good to have to but that's something I can't really borrow.
Surfing the internet I have found some useful information incluging, weirdly, how to smelt iron in a microwave. Extensive information about a series of smelting experiments (including video) based on viking technology can be found here as well as a related blog here. A series of Danish experiments are documented online here with excellent photos but unfortunately all in Danish. Some related posts in english can be found here and here. Finally this site has a serie of links relating to the smelting of iron and other metals and my video section includes a smelt based on prehistoric British furnaces.
If anyone is interested in collaborating or contributing it would be great to hear from you. I'm sure I'm not the only person in Ireland interested in this sort of thing.