Saturday, February 07, 2009

'Continuing Adventures in Early Iron'

An overview of experimental iron smelts, 2001 - 2008.


The creation of a forgeable iron bloom from raw ores is the result of a series of individual tasks, requiring many complex factors to be correctly integrated. An examination of the archaeological remains provides only a glimpse of the final stages of what is an ever changing process that unfolds over several hours. So just how was iron smelted during the Viking Age? Through a process of experimental archaeology, it may prove possible to work backwards from successful physical methods towards a process which employs only elements consistent with the technologies available historically. Working primarily with a team from Central Ontario, Canada, the author has to date undertaken 39 individual smelt sequences based on Viking Age prototypes. What has been learned from practical experience at the furnace may prove informative to researchers attempting to understand physical remains in the field.

Note: This paper has been revised from the original submitted in March of 2006, which only covered the first 13 experiments. What is seen here is the 'long version', before a further 2,000 words had been trimmed for submission for publication and with extra linked materials linked via the web.

Revised 2009 (long version) - Continuing Adventures in Early Iron

Original 2006 paper - Adventures in Early Iron Production.

Sorry to my regular readers, who may be getting tired of hearing about this!

There were actually three different versions of the 2009 paper prepared. The new call for publication asked to limit the length to 5,000 words, and the 2006 original, only covering 13 experiments, already was at 11,000! First I had to include all the materials relating to experiments 14 - 39, which also involved changing the structure of the paper considerably. Then I made a first pass, editing the length down to about 8000 words. (This is basically the version now posted on the web site.) At that point Neil Peterson went over that draft, trimming another 2000 words. I then revised his edit, mainly to make sure my original intent was still being expressed. This final version is the one being submitted for publication.

The humour is this is that I was the only non-academic invited to present at the first 'Friends of Medieval Studies' symposium in 2006. Only two of the presenters, myself and Steve Mulhberger actually wrote and submitted a document as asked for that symposium.

I personally find a real strange symmetry in that: It was Steve who introduced me to the SCA (back in the mid 1970's) which started the chain that lead to my interest in living history, my current profession, frankly the shape of my whole adult life. Steve was also the one who encouraged me to propose, write and present my very first paper ("Working in the Middle Ages - Historical Re-creation and Experimental Archaeology in the Society for Creative Anachronism", delivered at 'The Middle Ages in Contemporary Culture', McMaster University, Hamilton, March 1996.)

Anyway, at the time, Dr Robert Mason had told me that the FMSS group actually had the funding in place to publish the submitted papers - but no papers to work with! This is an extremely strange turn of events, as normally there is great difficulty in getting the money together for any publications. He had contacted all the presenters from the last three years of the symposium in mid Novemember (last fall) and asked once again for texts.

Wanna bet it will be once again those more to the fringes of Academia who are first to get those papers submitted?

A big thank you to Neil for the several hours he put in pruning my second draft!


STAG said...

I think I know what you mean about the difficulty in drumming up interest in real research....when I mention that I actually have a set of drawings I made by physically measuring the original armours in museums, the response is normally "yawn, I just want it good enough to fight in man." I NEVER get "oh wow man, that would be so got pictures of that armour?...I gotta have that!".

Guess I will dream on eh!

I am contemplating a post about the lopsided percentage of people who prefer the more expensive animae "fantasy" armours versus museum quality armours. But I may find it to be too depressing.

the Wareham Forge said...

I personally find the blog is my vantity magazine, the web site my vantity book.
The depth of the materials I have 'published' on line has varied over the years. On line materials are becoming accepted in academic circles (as references at least), and I do see more and more people also publishing their work this way to cut out the hoops.
Not sure as much what the functional value is. I hope, as with much else we do, that over time good articles lead to reputation building. You get to be known as 'the guy'.
Whole other ball of wax - right now I have the site, this blog, facebook plus a new thing called Squidoo. A lot of work, hard to say what the 'kick back' is.

You should be putting some video together on armour making. David (Breneth) Robertson and I both turn over several thousands a year on DVD / e-books.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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