This is the powerpoint from my talk at the Craft and People conference in the British Museum on Friday last. It was an excellent conference in an amazing venue. Thanks to the organisers and other presenters and attendees!
The final report for the Iron and Change in Europe Conference, which I blogged about previously has just been published on the ESF website. It presents a preliminary picture of the state of knowledge of the iron industry in Europe from its first appearance to the end of the first millenium AD. this is based on summary reports for individual countries presented by the various delegates to the conference, including my one which I posted to the blog in May.
You can read the report below or download it here.
This cutting from the Sunday Times (19th September) comes via the Heritage Crafts Association's Facebook page. Unfortunately the online version is behind a pay-wall here.
You can click on the image for a bigger, more readable version of the clipping. To summarise though, the well known fantasy author got a knighthood and clearly needed a sword. So, he decided to make one himself, from scratch. He enlisted the help of Jake Keen, a man well known in the world of archaeometallurgy and managed to smelt enough iron blooms to create a sword. He then, brought the iron along to a blacksmith an helped him make it.
The word jealous just doesn't seem adequate to describe my feelings about this. Hopefully i'll manage to smelt enough iron to do this myself someday. My initial attempt will need to be vastly improved before that happens though.
The smelting and the sword are mentioned in this article too but I'd love to see more info on this story if anyone finds any other links!
Just a quick note to let people know that more videos from Smelt 2010 are now up on Vimeo. These are time-lapse videos of the experimental smelt, some of which have already been seen.
Work is in progress on a final video report of the smelt using these videos in combination with other video taken at the project.
Experimental Iron Smelt in Co. Wexford, Ireland
I posted about a month ago about a workshop I attended in London that attempted to bring together iron-researchers across Europe. Each country was asked to answer a number of specific research questions in a short two thousand word document and in a presentation.
These summaries are extremely useful snapshots of research in each country and really served to show areas where research was lacking in various countries (including Ireland).
Anyway, we had to resubmit them recently with any tweaks we wanted to make so I thought I'd put mine up here for those interested. It represents an extremely preliminary review of some of the evidence collected for my dissertation and I will almost certainly completely disagree with aspects of it in the next few months.
I'd welcome comments or thoughts, bearing in mind this is research in progress! You can have a look at the slideshow that went with the talk here.
I received an email from Janet Lang of the BM yesterday letting me know that the CPSA website has gone live. The CPSA, despite its grand title, is basically a forum for people interested in iron to keep in contact across Europe and the world. Its primary contribution in the past, when it was kept going by Radomír Pleiner, was a newsletter which gave news and abstracts of theses, articles and books published on iron as well as numerous international conferences organised by members. It has suffered from a bit of a pause in recent years but this promises to be a new beginning and I look forward to many updates on the new website!
As promised here is some video from Smelt 2010. During the project I tried to capture as much as possible using time lapse photography to give a sense of the activity and number of people involved in a smelt. The video above shows the painstaking building of the furnace chimney which was built up of sausages of pre-mixed clay. The clay was mixed using equal parts horse dung, potters clay and sharp sand. The mix worked very well and we ended up with no cracks at all in the furnace. You can see the hardy volunteers in the background kneeding the sausages of clay in their hands.
The next video is from near the end of the smelt when we began to burn down the charcoal after about five hours of charging. It was getting late at that stage and the light fades until you can only see the glow of the burning charcoal. Unfortunately the lack of light meant no time-lapse of the removal of the bloom but we do have photos.
These and other videos and photos will be combined with standard video taken over the course of the weekend into a video report on the smelt which will be made available as soon as its ready. I have to thank Mark Gordon for acting as cameraman for the event and volunteering to edit all the footage, no small task.
UPDATE: One more video of the opening of one of Niall and Eoin's charcoal pits is available over at charcoal.seandalaiocht.com.
Smelt 2010 went off practically without a hitch almost two weeks ago now. I've been prevented from posting about it due to a serious case of man-flu. Probably from sleeping Early Medieval style for the weekend of the smelt.
However, one of my collaborators on the project Tom Birch has been far more industrious despite a sniffle of his own and has managed to get a report on the project published on one of the Naked Archaeology Podcasts. You can download the podcast here or listen to it through your browser here (skip forward to 25 minutes for the relevant section).
As a bit of a teaser I have uploaded a few photos from the weekend. More will follow including some video and I will be updating the project website with a report on the smelt as soon as possible.
I spent yesterday researching and organising things for Smelt 2010 which is fast creeping up on me. One of the fancy things I'd like to do for the smelt is some time-lapse photography so I devoted a bit of time to figuring out how my still relatively new digital slr works; familiarising myself a bit more with terms like apeture, shutter-speed and ISO. The result is a test video of me working for a couple of hours in my little home office:
It reveals a weird tendency to play with my beard (shared by all bearded men i'd imagine) and a dangerous sedentism that reminds me how much exercise I don't do.
Besides that, preparations are coming along and the Smelt will go ahead on the 6th and 7th of March. The one big thing I need to sort out is a bellows system, which I will make if need s be but I would be more than happy to borrow if someone would like to donate!
For people who would like to come to see the smelt (taking place in the Irish National Heritage Park in Co. Wexford) the schedule will hopefully run as follows:
Friday 5th - I'll be there prepping and setting up the smelting area and probably starting construction of the furnace
Saturday 6th - Completion of furnace and pre-firing with wood. Ore preparation and roasting.
Sunday 7th - The smelt (volunteers needed!)
Monday 8th - Clean up
All are welcome to come but if you can't make it I will be putting up videos and images from the smelt on the project's website.