Saturday, November 24, 2007

Winter Considerations

This last week I was invited to give a couple of lectures at Laurier University in Waterloo. Our smelt team has made friends with a couple of archaeology professors there - Dean Knight and Ron Ross.
The lecture of Dr Knight's ancient technologies course was on iron smelting (as might be suspected). At dinner, the lot of us got talking about the DARC experimental series, and what direction our future work might take.

Obviously one major thrust is the continuing series working towards a reconstruction of the Icelandic turf walled construction as excavated at Hals by Kevin Smith. This is primarily a furnace problem, and outside of the mechanics of gathering of the required grass sods, * seems * pretty straight forward. (The outlines of this project have been seen in earlier posts here.)

At this point, several deep background research projects are called for. These are mainly to take our practical experiences and frame them up against what is known from the archaeology:

1) Overview of Blooms and Smelters
Right now our best single resource for historic prototypes is Pliener's 'Iron in Archaeology'. Unfortunately most of the information we really need is buried in hard to find and harder to access field reports and journal articles. What is needed is a simple table style listing of the data from individual finds. Location / measurements / dates. Especially a cross linking of smelters against blooms and source ores.

2) Overview of Experimental Smelts
There is no standard set of records being kept by individual smelt teams. The arrangement of furnaces / air systems / ore against bloom production is often hard to pin down. Not everyone keeps measurements on things like air volumes. Again what would be extremely helpful would be a simple table style listing of the related data.

3) Air Systems
Our own team has developed certain impressions about what form historic air systems may have taken. A formal consideration of the theoretical footprint of the various alternatives should be written. At this point we should be able to estimate (if not clearly illustrate) the impact of the various possible systems in terms of things like debris fields.

Each one of these represents at least a potential journal article, if not a full blown academic paper (maybe a thesis!). A number of our close correspondents and advisors have been suggesting that we should be working to publish some of our experiences and conclusions.

Something to keep me inside next to the wood stove come January and February...

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