Saturday, December 09, 2023

A Review : 'Iron Smelting in Viking-age Iceland' by Short & Oskarson

 Review :
‘Iron Smelting in Viking-age Iceland:
 a study based on experimental archaeology’
William R. Short and Reynir A. Óskarson

Disclaimer : I had been involved, at the initial start of the Hurstwic iron smelting project, then during the lead up to the 2019 project in Iceland described in this document. I was removed from the project with only two weeks advance notice from the departure date. The reason given was ‘differences in approach’. At the time this appeared to be because of my attempts to communicate individually with other team members, specifically contributing archaeologists. It is worth mentioning that I had previous working relationships with several other team members (iron maker Jeff Pringle / blacksmith Jim Austin / archaeologist Margrét Hrönn Hallmundsdóttir) , and had been instructed to stop any attempt to contact them and others involved privately. Bill Short of Hurstwic demanded total control of this project, needless to state that he and I came to not agree on methods, most especially the free flow of information.  

This critique is presented largely in the same order as the descriptions in the text. All quotes from the report.

On Experimental Archaeology :

    This initial section attempts to validate the approaches used by Hurstwic, without detailing any specifics on the sequence, instrumentation, or record keeping that would be employed. Some of this information will be given through the body of the report, but not in a systematic format, with important data missing. The statement “This approach allows us to make deductive leaps and have confidence in the validity of our ideas.” suggests that established methods employed in Experimental Archaeology are not well understood here. (Specific examples of this as this commentary continues.)
    Two hypotheses are presented :
“…it is possible to smelt high quality iron using tools, techniques, and raw materials known to have existed in Viking-age Iceland. “
“… high quality iron can be smelted using locally-sourced materials gathered close to known smelting sites in Viking-age Iceland. “

On Archaeological Sources :

    There is a long discussion about what is considered by the authors about what they describe as “…a problem we call ultimate authority…”, in this case specifically directed at what is presented as “…the widely held belief that iron smelted in Viking-age Iceland was of poor quality, a belief held by scholars and laymen alike and supposedly backed up by literary evidence.”
    Throughout this report descriptions of iron ‘quality’ are often made. Significantly, there is never any attempt to define what these authors consider ‘good quality’ iron. It would appear to be related in some way to iron used for the construction of swords, as discussion of stories within the Sagas of Icelanders is made, specifically to references of swords bending during combat. (I will return to this later)
    It is problematic that numerous references to the Icelandic Sagas are given (1), but there is virtually no actual descriptions of the archaeological finds at Icelandic iron smelting sites, beyond giving the location names. The statement is made “Yet the excavations fail to reveal the process. How were the furnaces constructed?” The recovery of a number of furnaces at Hals (clay lined turf wall construction) and Skogar (stone base with potential turf upper) is well documented (and cited). A good number of other references are cited in the bibliography, but the bulk of these are only available in Icelandic language versions, so are not easily accessible outside Icelanders.  

On Viking Age Iron Smelting :

    Presented as a very brief overview of the general bloomery iron smelting process, what is presented is generally accurate.
    It is significant however that there is little to indicate what is specifically Viking Age / Norse about the rough description presented. No illustrations of recovered furnaces from archaeology (of which there are a significant number of examples over Northern Europe). This is especially frustrating related to the four Icelandic iron production sites mentioned in the section above,
    The following production values are given : “In order to create a one kilogram finished iron bar, about 2 kg of bloom was needed, created using 4-8 kg of ore and 8-16 kg of charcoal.” There is no indication of where these (questionable) figures are derived. (2)

On Research

    It is noteworthy that the values given for the iron ores are properly corrected from the impossible numbers published earlier by Hurstwic. (3) What is lacking is any discussion of the high variability of primary bog iron ores, certainly between physical locations, but also over time. These factors very important when considering the changes in local environments within Iceland over the last 1000 years.

    Pure bentonite has a melting point of approximately 1200 °C (a figure that should have been mentioned). Available clays can vary widely in melting points, especially as compared to the expected internal temperatures within a smelting furnace in the range of 1350 + °C. This remains a universal problem when building furnaces using locally sourced materials.

“The details of the furnace construction are not clear from available evidence, but we speculated the furnace was a pile of turf blocks with a circular open central shaft lined with clay forming the stack. “ 

    Although Smith’s excavations at Hals are mentioned, that evidence clearly indicates construction using a conical stack with a central shaft. Although there is certainly no reason not to use the flat stack method proposed, it is disingenuous to suggest there are no historic prototypes available. (4)

    The section on ‘Measured Furnace Temperatures’ lacks enough details to consider it hard science. How were the temperatures determined? Exactly where were those sensors placed both vertically and in relation to the air input? It is stated “Additionally, turf provides excellent thermal insulation, as shown by temperature measurements of experimental furnaces suggesting that a turf furnace might operate more efficiently than, for example, a free-standing clay furnace.” Potential high temperature production from burning charcoal is never a concern, outside of the dynamics of available air volumes. Heat * retention * is rarely a problem in bloomery furnaces. Given the continuing discussion in this report of the problem of the low melting point of the local bentonite clay, if anything a highly insulating wall is more likely to promote clay lining failure.  The actual situation is that excess heat radiates off the exterior of free standing clay furnaces, and so thicker walls are more likely to significantly melt / erode. It is also stated “…unlike free-standing clay furnaces which suffer from cracking during repeated heating/cooling cycles…” which is definitely not the case. This may have been intended to mean ‘cracking during the initial drying process’, which certainly can be a problem with poor building technique.
    There is a discussion of modifying the available bentonite clay with the addition of silica, the method of using (basalt based) sand discarded as it is felt that natural sand is not widely available in Iceland. Instead, the source for a silica component is given as ash from burning horse manure : “The horse manure ash samples were high in silica and appeared to show promise as a possible refractory material for a smelting furnace.” Worth noting here is the comment made at the start of the report “We wondered if researchers had fallen into the trap we call modern mindset, an umbrella term denoting instances where our modern-day thinking, ideas, and prejudices interfere with our investigation of ancient times. “ Without any reasonable doubt, the concept of adding sand to clay for furnace construction might have been imported into Iceland, along with the whole mechanism  of iron smelting itself. That silica as a chemical even existed was centuries beyond Norse knowledge, or that burning manure and adding that ash would be a useful component could be anything but exactly an example of the modern mindset trap. 

On Tests and Experiments :

“The tuyere, the pipe which admits the air blast into the furnace through the side, was tested using various positions and various materials for which there is evidence of use in ancient times, including ceramic, copper, and iron.”

    This statement is somewhat misleading, in so much that this section appears to imply that Hurstwic operated in a vacuum, testing unknown elements effecting furnace construction and operation, without any suggestions from others. What is missing here is that the Hurstwic team was provided with training in all these elements long previously researched, tested and documented by others, most significantly the work of the DARC team and myself directly. Bill Short and others from Hurstwic undertook a three day iron smelting in the Viking Age training workshop here at the Wareham Forge in June 2018. This included extensive descriptions of the work DARC had already undertaken on the Icelandic / Hals re-creations (at that date, a total of 8 experimental smelts, work published back to 2007, and under discussion back as early as 2002) 

On Protocols :

    Missing important measurement : interior diameter of furnace at tuyere level. As suggested by Sauder, there is a relationship between ideal air volume delivery and cross section area at tuyere. It should be remembered that the important value for a working smelt is burn rate however (see below)
    Although use of some type of tuyere is mentioned, there is no description what so ever given, other than placement to the furnace wall (base depth and angle). The material it is composed of is not stated, no measurements provided, and it is not seen in any of the images. This is a critical absence, as there is considerable discussion via the known archaeology of what air insert system may actually have been used in Viking Age Iceland.
    It is stated both clay and sand were transported to the working site. No mention of distances involved, hiding behind knowledge of Icelandic locations. It remains an important consideration that far more clay is required than sand in furnace wall construction, most typically only 25 - 50 % of the total. If during the Viking Age, clay would be transported as needed, why not sand?
    Some details of the testing results of various clay to ash silica mixes would be helpful, what determined the 40 ash to 60 clay ratio  (so only 16.4 % silica)? (Again noting that if composed of basalt sand, the amount of that material required would not be punishing to transport.)
It is also worth noting that although the original premise of this experiment was the use of ‘local’ materials, the description of  sources of individual components was in fact scattered over much of western and northern Iceland. So the materials were only ‘local’ as far as being all Icelandic.
    Burn rate is given as 5 minutes per kg (m/kg). Ore charging is stated as initially at 10 m/kg, later increased to 5 m/kg. All of these are clearly averages, over many hours and three different tests. This reduces the value of those numbers. No information is ever given of total amounts of ore that was used in each of the three smelts. This is highly significant, as larger ore volume smelts tend to produce higher yield numbers. 

    The following values are presented :
    •    Smelt 1 = 1.4 kg / 4.7 % yield (ore at 64 % Fe / blower)
    •    Smelt 2 = 3.1 kg / 10.3 % yield (ore at 64 % Fe / blower)
    •    Smelt 3 = .6 kg / 2 % yield (ore at 58 % Fe / bellows)
    These are extremely low (to the point of embarrassment) returns, even more so against the high elemental content of the starting ores. As has been mentioned, if extremely small total ore amounts were added, such low production values might be seen, but that begs the (unanswered) question of just why minimal ore amounts were used. There is striking difference between smelt 1 and 2, for which no attempt at explanation is given.
    There is an attempt to blame the extremely bad results from smelt 3 on the presence of sulphur in the (different) ore used. This is not the effect of sulphur’s presence in an iron smelt, which is primarily an effect of the forging qualities of the resulting metallic iron (brittleness).
    There is no specific information provided about the air volumes / burn rates established for smelt 3. The human powered bellows used is not described in any detail at all, no physical measurements are given. There is no information on pumping rates during operation (certainly to be variable over the number of operators required during the many hours of a smelt). Most likely the poor results from smelt 3 are due to the use of this equipment.

On Results

“ Analysis of the iron from furnaces #1 and #2 showed that it is excellent iron, nearly 100% pure, with an excellent crystalline structure and few inclusions of slag or other impurities.”

    Once again the description ‘excellent iron’ is made, without any definition of what this means. There is a marked difference between the image of one of the bloom pieces shown and the microscopic analysis presented. Clearly the bloom overall is fragmented, contains considerable visible slag and voids. The piece illustrated has been barely compacted after extraction. Contained carbon is described as an ‘impurity’ (more on this below).

Bloom section and compacted bar by Hurstwic from the Icelandic smelt. 

“We subsequently used period techniques to form a part of one of the blooms into an iron billet, further proving the excellent qualities of the iron.”

    What exactly where the ‘period techniques’ used for compaction here?
    As noted, the reported bloom to bar return of only 50% does not indicate ‘excellent qualities’ to the created iron. Although an extremely small image, the resulting working bar shows surface cracks and possibly slag inclusions, both quite undesirable qualities to blacksmith.

“It was more than good enough for making tools, weapons, or other useful products.”

    Sorry. The initial contention was that the general impression of historic Icelandic iron being ‘of poor quality’ has been specifically joined to iron of suitable characteristics for particularly sword making. Low carbon iron was most likely the preferred product of Norse smelting efforts, the resulting metal is easiest to forge and for processes like hammer welding. The addition of small amounts of carbon (so potentially ‘bloomery steel’) changes the characteristics of the metal. Weapons on the other hand, require the addition of small amounts of carbon within the alloy (0.2 - 1.0 %) for rigidity and hardness. A soft, carbon free blade would in fact be likely to bend in combat use. It also would have little ability to allow or retain a sharp cutting edge.

“It is quite possible that Hurstwic's iron was the first iron smelted in Iceland for many centuries.“

    Earlier work by archaeologist Margrét Hrönn Hallmundsdóttir, who not only is cited as a source, but was actually one of this project’s team members, included a number of experimental iron smelts, conducted in Iceland, using stone chamber and turf wall construction, and date back to 2012

On Conclusions :

    It is clear that this team did in fact undertake a limited set of bloomery iron smelts in Iceland, utilizing primarily materials sourced from natural sources within Iceland, resulting in some iron being produced. At least one section had been compacted to a working bar. 

“We were unable to falsify our two hypotheses, and so they still stand: evidence suggests that it is possible to make high quality iron with materials and methods known to have been available to Viking-age Icelanders; and that it is possible to make high-quality iron with locally sourced Icelandic materials.”

    Throughout this section, there is repeated use of ‘high quality iron’, yet there is nothing indicated by this report (beyond simple boasting) that this was in fact the case here. The extremely poor yields from these tests do not suggest any kind of reasonable return against the considerable effort involved. So much so that a solid case could be made that if historic iron makers would even consider the methods illustrated, it would be hard not to consider both their skill and product be ‘poor’.
    If a solid definition of what constitutes ‘high quality’ or ‘excellent’ had been given in concrete terms (rather than vague subjective impressions), perhaps the conclusion stated above might have some value.
Any attempt to link these results to the handling characteristics of Viking Age Icelandic swords is questionable at best.

Image taken from the report as published on the Hurstwic web site (viewed directly from that source)

1) The dominance of the Icelandic Sagas as accurate accounting of historical events, even down to small practical details, in the past investigations by Hurstwic, is clearly obvious throughout their published reports, lectures and videos.
2) Although it could be fair to say that the authors are covering themselves with the additional comment : “The ratios are highly variable and depend on many factors.” The conversion of bloom to bar given at 50% loss is extremely poor work (based on considerable documented work by myself and others), unless the starting blooms themselves are of low quality (meaning fragmented, and / or containing many voids and excessive slag - often seen in small blooms). In comparison, the ratio given for ore into bloom is quite high, up to 50% return given (a figure more typical of very large smelts, or with use of extremely pure iron content ores). Where this number is derived is questionable, especially since the best yield from the actual experiments was reported at no more than 10 %.
3) Originally the same pie chart was presented, only given as pure elemental content - not as the various oxides, the ore was stated as being ’91 % iron’. Not as Fe2O3 oxide only containing in total 70 % iron, so actually at best only 64 % elemental iron. This does still remain an excellent quality ore. Published (as promotion) by Bill Short on to the ‘Iron Smelters of the World’ Facebook group. see commentary :
4) see : Markewitz, 2007  :

Note to readers : I present my clear bias right up front.
It is painfully clear to anyone that the Hurstwic report contains more omissions than hard data. Realistically, with so few measurements given, this report documents an Experience - not an Experiment.
I have served as a reviewer for the EXARC Journal for several years now, specifically for submitted articles related to ‘ancient technologies’ I have to state, despite my obvious bias towards this project, that I would not recommend the Journal publish this article in its current form, but instead have it returned for considerable re-writing.

I am personally offended by the refusal of the authors to reference the published work I know full well they based at least their initial understanding of not only bloomery iron smelting in general, but the methods used during the Viking Age, and with Icelandic turf walled construction specifically. Although it is clear that they attempted to weasel out on this lack of credit through the inclusion of a final “The authors regret any omissions in this list.”
When you deliberately leave off any references to training provided, consultation given freely, published documents on which your own work is founded - what do we call that?

Friday, December 08, 2023


 (Sparked by musings perhaps spawned by a lack of coffee this morning. Kind of low ball humour?)

So - here is the thing

Is the Dark Ages Re-creation Company a CULT?

So maybe a bit far fetched.
Or is it??

    Those with drastically long memories may remember organizations like ‘The Campus Crusade for Christ’ (A) and ‘the Moonies’ who were quite active (and problematic), particularly on university and college campuses, back in the 1970’s. There were pamphlets widely circled among students, warning of ‘The 10 Danger Signs of a Cult’. (B)
    Newly involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism in the mid to later years of that decade, one of the standard in group jokes at the time was that 'the SCA had nine of the ten danger signs' : 

1) ‘The group has a charismatic and all powerful leader’.
    The SCA failing right off the top of the list!. The SCA had a regional leader (a King), who a) often was not at all charismatic (won this via a martial tournament), b) had only as much real ‘power’ as anyone would grant them freely (and often did not, see point (a), and c) was subject to mandatory retirement from office every six months for an entirely new individual. 

Other points I could remember / imagine (I have not been able to find the original list from back when) :

2) You will be expected to assume an alternate identity, including special modes of dress.
    The SCA expected you to assume a (somewhat ?) historic based ‘personna’ / character, often with a self fulfilling fantasy element. This character is expected to be presented, often to extreme detail, as historic individuals.

3) You will take on a new name, used only within the group
    See above. (One of the standards of having a close friend was that you actually knew their ‘mundane’ / legal name.)

4) You will spend increasing time in activities and events for which no one other than group members are allowed
    SCA events were freely open to others, but only in so much that ‘An attempt at ‘garb’ / clothing is worn which resembles that from 500 - 1650 AD’.  (So, at least mimicking, if not outright joining into the group.)

5) You will be expected to use a unique language, known only to other group members.
    See examples above, add as many other examples as you would like here…

6) Increasingly, you will become more an more isolated from past friends and family, interacting with group members will dominate your social activities.
    Common were weekly meetings, separate weekly combat practice (itself a specialized activity), several potential day long special gatherings every month, often related craft activity nights, major multi day ‘camping events yearly, long post event parties. All of which were pretty much confined to group participants only (or those on the edges of recruitment). It was very typical for members of the SCA to meet and establish intimate partnerships with other group members.

7)  Promises of advancement or special standing for following the dictates of the Cult.
    Well, honours are awarded inside the SCA for activities undertaken inside of, or for the support of, the group activities. Often those recognitions were clearly more important to the individuals who held them than any achievements outside the group itself. Decision making powers and special status, often granted (even expected) as well.

8) You will be expected to strongly promote the Cult, and engage in active recruiting of new members.
    For the SCA, maybe not really expected, but certainly most members do actively attempt to encourage others to become involved. There are commonly smaller specialized associations created, which can have another layer of members only activities.

9) Activities within the Cult will be kept hidden and details kept secret.
    Honestly, this presents another major failing of the SCA as a potential Cult. Try to stop anyone involved from going on at amazing lengths about personal research, object making activities, who did what, where, and when. To be fair, there was a point in the early days when those involved did attempt to limit description (if not hide involvement outright) to institutions or authority figures. (Remember trying to explain to a police officer why you had a bag full of armour and swords?)

10) The Cult leadership demands large amounts of member funds or other assets be turned over to them personally.
    Seriously? Yet another major fail for the SCA as Cult! Yea, everyone bitches about the cost of the basic membership, that 50 - 60 dollars a year sent off to the head office in California. Yes, individual members certainly do invest huge amounts of coin, effort and time into equipping themselves personally in clothing, accessories, specialized tools for craft work, extensive camping gear or portable room setting, ... Many ‘expensive’ gifts are given to others. All of this is completely voluntary (see ‘attempt at costume’).

Ok - Spin those Signs against DARC

1) Leader
    Maybe a bit charismatic? (To be fair I am aware that I do have Leadership abilities, but that may be personal ego talking!) All powerful? Not a chance! Individual group members almost all have strong personalities, plus proven abilities for organization of their own. Most are just as happy to let someone else take on the heavy lifting, but Truth be Told, it is more like herding cats…

2) Identity
    Well, this is certainly true. As with the SCA however, those choices are made by the individual. A case could be made that members are ‘forced’ to pick a personna within a specified historical time frame and rough regional location (Norse or in direct contact with Norse, we even allow Saxons.)

3) Name
    Also certainly true. Because members are a bit lazy and all have very wide social circles, there is a tendency to use the character names when we are together and out of historic dress as well. (Everyone knows a lot of ‘Daves’ - but there is only one ‘Grimmi’.)

4) Activities
    Hardly. If there is one continuing problem it can actually getting members up here (mainly) to participate in specialist activities. All are extremely busy with all sorts of communities, well outside of DARC.

5) Language
    Does Old Norse count? (although only a few of us speak it beyond the odd word) Maybe joint examples of ‘museum speak’ and in public presentation (only) attempting to maintain the ‘rhythms’ of people from a past cultural set.

6) Isolation
    Again - see point 4. If anything, involvement with DARC has lead many individuals to expand into formal academics, placing themselves in front of the public at huge events.

7)  Advancement
    Given that within DARC there is absolutely no rank structure at all? Beyond this roles individuals have chosen for themselves (Ragnar gets blamed for everything, Kettil gets made fun of as his health fails, …)

8) Recruitment
    Exact opposite! One of our largest problems right now is actually finding new people (crazy enough) to take part in our activities.

9) Secrets
    ‘Got a minute? Let me tell you about … (pick specialized craft, bizarre fact, most recent research topic - insert here)’ Given the number of workshops, lectures, physical demonstration, web documents, formal articles, conference presentations,... that so many members undertake?

10) Donations
    You are kidding, right. Given the losses I have taken organizing large scale group activities over the last 20 years? At least people do buy me scotch…

I make that maybe two out of ten, both related to the use of characterizations in living history activities (and those primarily those in front of the public). A bit of fuzz on the names?

So yes, Concerned Parent, it remains (relatively) safe to the sanity of your daughter/son to engage with the Dark Ages Re-Creation company.

A) A group that I personally had been involved in for a (thankfully) short time, as they expanded down to high school level. I would have been in grade 9, about 14 - 15 years old. The forceful insistence on an Us or Them (you were either ‘Saved’ or unworthy) pretty much killed any acceptance I might have entertained to the Christian Church. (I had been raised in a fairly strong Presbyterian household, a faith that both suited and well sustained my mother.)

B)  See ‘the Cult Database : Cult Warning Signs’ :

    Part of the inspiration leading to this navel gazing was dealing with a recent publication by a certain self described ’Heathen’ organization, based in Massachusetts USA. Lead by an individual who has repeatedly demonstrated an insistence on tight control to communications and information flow. Filtered by a long conversation with an old friend and trusted academic colleague.
    As individuals within DARC age, potential new members seem harder to find and encourage, and significantly as I personally feel declining abilities with time, I do start wondering about the future for a group that I have put a significant amount of myself behind over the last + 20 years.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Jackson House Railings

 This project, initiated back in late May, was way too long in completion. 

Original Concept - Top Side Railing

The project included a set of seven small railing pieces, mounted on a series of natural limestone steps running down the side of the house from the front to a much lower back yard, with one longer segment set at the top level. Another short piece mounted at the front entrance single step up. The design 'Arts & Crafts', inspired by patterned glass set into the front door. For a fuller commentary on the design aspect, see : Inspiration, Art - and slogging

Front Entrance Railing - note pattern on door glass

Side Top Unit - compare to layout above

Side Railing Set - looking upwards over the stone steps

 Those who have been following my architectural work will notice the similarity in design to an earlier project, Richard's House - 2009, also in Arts & Crafts style.


This is the first architectural project I have had for some time now. Truth to be told, there was more delay involved in both starting and completing this work, partially due to fitting the build and install around other previously committed projects. A major complication was due to simple aging. First * I * most certainly do not work as quickly as a was once able, and even during this build found a serious decline in ability. (At the start in June, I was able to complete six of the long tapers in three hours, by October this was down to half that production speed in a forging session.) My equipment also showed it's age over this work. I had failures of my air hammer, industrial welder, bench grinder, and problems with two corded electric drills during the last installation.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Remembrance (10 lines)


So, I was in Toronto last Wednesday, November 1, on the TTC from north 417 station down to Queen east near Coxwell, then later back out. 

Ok, I get it, still a week and a half from The Day, but still…

Hardly a poppy to be seen, and those almost exclusively found on older English looking males.

I kind of understand that you are originally from some part of the world far removed from Europe.

That you are young, and the conflicts since WW2 seem far away, unimportant to your self absorbed world of social media. 

‘Never Again’ means to you ‘someone else’s problem’

Is there any understanding that sometimes you do have to stand up and just say no more, with raw force if required?

So you think it is fine to break the implied Moral Contract between the soldier, who has placed their own mortal body and fragile mind, and the civilian, who sleeps comfortably in a warm bed and belly full. 

You can’t imagine, You don’t Remember. 

To those who * know *, ‘Thank You For Your Service’ is never enough.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

On Click Bait - and going to the Source

I had been presented with this ...

" Archaeologists stunned by 2,900-year-old steel tools in Portugal

Steel tools were believed to have only become widespread in Europe during the Roman Empire, but a recent study challenges this assumption. The study shows that steel tools were already in use in Europe around 2,900 years ago, during the Final Bronze Age. " (1)

Image linked from the original article (2)

" Photos: Rafael Ferreiro Mählmann (A), Bastian Asmus (B), Ralph Araque Gonzalez (C-E) " (1)

Go and read the article and come back...

Before I get into this, did you see the link to the actual report on the Experimental Archaeology? Very last line in the article :

" The findings appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Science. " (1)

Ideally you should read that as well...



Do you see any significant differences between the two? 

I sure did!

I took a look at the fluff piece first, then used the link to the actual formal paper.
Two different animals.   

The article substituted 'temper' for 'harden'. Any blacksmith would tell you that these are not even vaguely the same. Hardening iron metals involves high temperature and then quenching in some liquid, attempting to create a controlled hard material, where the initial carbon alloy content of the iron is critical to both method and result. Tempering is another process entirely, done as the last step, carefully and at much lower temperatures, which effectively removes hardness to a desired area and amount.

Going to the actual report

First thing that needs to be understood that the archaeological report is centred primarily on the question of how detailed carvings were made in specifically a hard quartz-sandstone type. The experiment included test carvings with replica stone, bronze and specifically several different copies of an iron alloy artifact tool.

The object itself, on detailed examination, shows no proof of hardening at the point sampled, which was the top of the chisel, not the cutting tip. As would be expected, that part of the artifact tool was annealed. Annealing is the first of the three heat treating steps for carbon alloys in tool making, involving first high temperature and then slow cooling. This effectively removes any hardness and importantly stresses from the initial forging process.

" Fig. 9. The chisel from Rocha do Vigio, length ca. 18 cm (Photos: Ralph Araque Gonzalez) ".(3)

The tool in question is a very basic straight edged chisel with a square cross section of about 1 cm, total is 18 cm long. A bit narrow, but otherwise a pretty standard tool shape for detailed stone carving. (4)

The conclusion about hardening being used on the artifact is based on their making of a replica made of 0.60 % carbon modern steel, and its use effects on the same stone as was used historically. The experimental tests suggested that to carve that stone, the tools used required some type of carbon alloy, with hardening of to some state (importantly, not analysis of the artifact itself). A reasonable comparison, but not proof.

The artifact shows considerable variation in carbon through the cross section, to be expected with processing a single bloom by folding, with the bloom material varying from 0.17 % to as much as 0.83 % carbon, four places were tested over a 1 cm cross section. Visually the polished and etched section looking like four separate areas of a bloom forge welded together to create the bar. 

This is important to understanding exactly what the material in this tool represents. Having made more that a few iron blooms, I can state that bloomery iron is not homogeneous, with contained carbon varying between top and bottom surfaces of the same raw bloom. The process of consolidating and purifying any bloom will require repeated flattening, folding and forge welding together. (The more dense the starting bloom, the fewer of those steps needed).

Worth noting that this is NOT a sign of either an attempt to case harden or specifically place harder carbon metal at one edge. (To be fair, the report does not claim either of these methods are visible). Than any blacksmith could tell the relative hardness of an iron bar as it was being forged is certain. (Ask any contemporary blacksmith!) The quality and carbon content of individual working bars from blooms (even areas within the same stock bar) was well known right up to the introduction of Bessemer steels in the 1850's. That an ancient smith might save 'hard iron' specifically for tool making can hardly be questioned.

So - typical distortion of a limited report through limited understanding into bad description and mis-use of technical terms - for impact via the popular press. 


1) Tibi Puiu, September 21, 2023,

ZME Science, Archaeology, News

2) Worth noting that I think the furnace depicted here is a very bad design. The extremely large difference between top opening and base diameter is certain to have a negative impact on the fall of added ore through the reduction zone, and bloom formation. 

3) Gonzalez, R. A., 2023, "Stone-working and the earliest steel in Iberia: Scientific analyses and experimental replications of final bronze age stelae and tools" in Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 152,

4) I have made a number of similar stone chisels for modern artisans over the years. Most typically of a middle carbon / 0.45 alloy, hardened by oil quenching and tempered to a 'red'. With good results reported, admittedly mostly used on limestone types.


Monday, September 11, 2023

Women Become Wise…

 So here is a thing.

Looking to Old Norse culture ( a place I spend a lot of time ) you see a pattern (?). Old men are still expected to keep up with the young wolves, their declining physical abilities are considered more detrimental than the value of any accumulated experience. First out into the snow should times get tragically hard. (As my gang in DARK are often to remind me.)

Older Women on the other hand…

Continue to be valued and preserved for their accumulated * wisdom *.

Ok, this is most certainly a sweeping generalization and mis interpretation. But those reading here ‘of an age’ have also likely seen a pattern emerging that has struck me more and more of late, especially with my own personal increasing decrepitude. I have many male friends who are skilled, experienced and knowledgeable (all different qualities, of which I have expanded on here and other places). But it is my female friends who constantly impress me with their accumulated wisdom. Which most certainly exceeds my own. 

Thank you, those Wise Women who may read this. (You likely know who you are, so naming of names is not needed.) I’m often smart enough to vaguely frame a pattern, but so often quite unable to grasp any solutions. 

(Apologies to the original photographer and model of the image used above, scammed randomly off the internet.)

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Trapped on the Tide


Isle of Skye

I had always thought of  crabs as little organic tanks, just needing a gun sticking from below their eyes. I had messed with the concept back in art school, at least to the point of making drawings and collecting plastic model parts and a large carapace on my first trip to the Atlantic coast (about 1978).

But not all explorations to the landward side work well for intrepid explorers. Especially if there is a mis-understanding of scale.

I can imagine my old friend and semi-surreal painter Steve Strang more better suited to this imagining. Thinking of his submarine in a bog, floating fishing boats and ‘universal protection suit’ series.

(Sorry about the small size of the image - please view at full size! This my first attempt to add a piece using my iPad, while on travels.)

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Ireland and Scotland

I have a major trip planned to Ireland and Scotland coming up.

This has been in the (seemingly endless) works since the start of 2023. The major purpose initially was to finally attend the Caherconnell Furnace Festival (originally Woodford) which I have missed every year since it started in 2018. I had been considering attending in 2019, but the aborted Iceland iron smelting project overlapped, and I had already committed to that. Then my involvement there was cancelled virtually at the last minute (like 7 days before departure), so I ended up missing both. 

Then COVID hit...

The 2020 Festival was done as a virtual international smelting day, with boxes of Irish bog ore shipped out to various locations. (DARC had contemplated undertaking a smelt using this material and our standard furnace, but the cost of shipping 30 kg to Canada was beyond our reach.) I had supplied a video presentation, but with the everyone still not too familiar at that point in remote access, this never got included in the program. 

In 2022 the Festival returned, moving to the Caherconnell Stone Fort site, but between my major effort for Parks Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows early summer and lingering concerns still over COVID, I decided not to make the trip. Significant for that year was the development of both a furnace design (short shaft with bellows plate and blow hole) and working method (multiple top extraction of smaller blooms in a continuous sequence), that ideally suited the extremely rich bog iron ore available locally in Ireland.

Caherconnell Furance, 2022 - image by Jens Olesen

Between my uncertainty of the working situation at Caherconnell, and more significantly my own recent decline in physical ability, my direct involvement is expected to have shifted for me personally from a chance for further experimentation to more limited participation, some observation, and generally just hanging out. There may be some chance to work with Irish blacksmiths on the bloom to bar phase, but given the expected (normal) limitations of field equipment I'm not sure how much I will be able to contribute. I had initially suggested a prototype for testing slag pit furnaces (known for early Irish at other locations) but there was less interest in that build, largely because of local surface conditions (bed rock) and limited materials supply. I certainly hope to help out my old friend Jens Olesen from Denmark, who will be taking on a teaching element over Thursday and Friday. Likely also 'working the rope line' explaining the combined undertakings to the visiting public (something I do have significant ability and experience with!)

Another major element of this trip was the potential to present at the European Archaeology Association annual conference EAA23, which was happening immediately after Caherconnell - in Belfast. I had submitted an abstract early on, and was quite pleased that the paper / presentation was accepted. Originally I did not think I would be able to physically attend, as the lodging costs in Belfast were simply astronomical (even the cheapest hotel rooms were running $300 a night, or significantly more!)

Late in organizing, I did manage to get lucky on affordable lodgings for at least two nights in Belfast, so will be able to attend part of the EAA-23 conference, including the day of my own presentation there. This being :

SESSION - 729 : Friday Sept 1
Session title
EXARC: Reconstructing Past Narratives Through Experimental Archaeology
4. People of the Present – Peopling the Past
Presentation : #2296 (set later morning)
Title :
Experiment, Archaeology & Art - The Turf to Tools Project
Turf to Tools (2014, 2016) was originally conceived as “ ... an ongoing investigation in to landscape, material and craft, inspired by local archeological investigations in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire.” The archaeological foundations centred on the work of Dr. Gordon Noble’s investigations of Pictish sites, notably the ‘Rhynie Man’ stone, and later the excavations by Ross Murray at the ‘Iron Age Craft Working Site’ of Culduthel, nearby. To date, a total of nine bloomery iron smelts have been undertaken for T2T, the two main series at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop at Lumsden (close to Rhynie). These included tests of the unique local Macaulayite ore and peat as a potential fuel. Local materials would be utilized using prototypes established by the archaeology, through methods refined by experimentation, with an aim to replicating a specific object, being the axe depicted with Rhynie Man.
Taken together, this project illustrates an interface between archaeological research and practical experiment, extended into artistic vision.

This all does mean a lot more moving from one side of Ireland to the other, so I guess most of what we will see will be through bus windows.


For those who may not of caught it via Facebook, the Scottish side project work on this trip has completely fallen apart. The original intent was to mount a public demo of iron smelting, but I could not find a hosting organization to even offer up a location. (I was going to cover all the supplies and my lodgings - Guess I am not the draw I thought I was). So the third project component, Turf to Tools Phase 3, has been reduced to only a personal deposit of a replica axe into a bog, now on Skye. (This provided I can get the consolidated from blooms made during earlier phases into the replica Rhynie Man axe in the two working days left me before departure!) Taken together, this is overall very disappointing and demoralizing. 

With no institutional support (and my applied for Canada Council grant unknown until we return in September) this trip is quite expensive, taking a big chunk of my personal savings (especially now I am on OAS income here). Between the costs involved and my own increasing physical decrepitude, this was likely going to be my last major and working trip. 

PS - Note to regular readers. 

Sorry for the general decline in additions here. In the past I had attempted one contribution here each week, lately one every month has been more the case. A number of major writing projects, preparing for helping at the Gallery for CanIRON 13, (finally) a railing commission, the time with my co-op student in the spring - and what seemed endless fooling around trying to organize this trip. 

Will try to get better into the Fall...

Monday, July 10, 2023

Telling of Tales (10 lines)

Gathered around the fire, someone asked : “Is there anyone here who remembers the Time of Troubles?”.

They turned to the one, ancient of days, and said “Tell us the story”.

He gathered his dim recollections, and voice still strong, started a Tale.

“ It was a Time of Heroes, when the men where tall and wide of shoulder, strong of arm and bold; the women were slender and graceful, nimble fingered and bright.”

His speech was slow and measured, as he sought to mingle facts with coloured words and spin out past events and characters.

“But what about this person and that?” someone interrupted, not understanding that the message of the telling was more important than mere details.

So in the tale, the characters became more heroic or evil, the events more dramatic. 

The truth of the past became a parable of warning

“Did I mention, It was a Time of Heroes, when the men where tall and wide of shoulder, strong of arm and bold; the women were slender and graceful, nimble fingered and bright.


And if that was not the way it actually was, it most certainly is the way it should have been.”



This, like the telling it outlines, is a fable of itself, based on an actual event. One late night gathered around a fire at the recent SCA Trillium War event, the question was posed, and a story of the past woven. I was quite surprised (although in retrospect I perhaps should not have been) that only one other had any personal memory of that Dark Time in the history of the North. So the telling (and the weaving of a tale) fell to me. 

A standard joke about my years of the SCA in Ontario is being 'older than dirt'. Only one other from that initial core group is (like myself) still marginally active, quickly approaching 45 years ago.

Image is taken (without permission, primarily as it is not indicated just who took the photo) from :

I took almost as much time attempting to find a suitable illustration, something that at least might suggest the mood I wanted to create. (Note that I don't share the view point of the blog posting that image came from, for a number of reasons that will be clear to any who really know me.)

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Inspiration, Design - and slogging

I have recently negotiated the first architectural / railing project I have had in quite some time. 

The project is for a set of exterior railing sections, attached to a series of large natural limestone slabs which descend down the side of a private home, from street level at the front to the walk out basement level of the back yard. 

View from the lower level, original suggestion of elements

 The individual slabs are quite wide, in the lower section each from 18 - 24 inches wide. The typical lift between steps is 6-7 inches (so the thickness of the slabs as well)

The customers wanted the design of the railing units to echo the lines of a piece of sand blasted glass set into their front door:

After considerable discussion, they decided they wanted a larger number of short sections (total seven at 14 inches each) placed on individual slabs, rather than the two medium length pieces I had originally suggested. There is one two step section for the front steps into the main entrance, plus one longer section at the top part of the rear side, where the stone slab steps are much closer together. That piece has a bend in the middle to match the line of the slabs :

The handrail parts are made from 1 inch heavy walled square tube, which is flattened down on the diagonal to 1/2 tall by 1 1/2 wide, with the ends capped :

sample piece (here with curved end) of the proposed handrail

The uprights are made from 1/4 x 2 inch flat bar. Each is drawn out to a long taper down to 3/8 x 1/2 at the narrow end, over the entire length. This is in the range of 32 - 34 inches long, depending where they fit to the design, some longer elements in the layout for the longest rail section. 

You can see this is basically a clean lined 'Arts and Crafts' style design overall.

Now comes the slogging part.

The overall project requires forging out a total of 45 individual tapered pieces from flat stock. 

After two days of working, I have found it takes me 30 minutes each to forge the tapers. The effective heating cycle allows for forging three pieces at a time. Completing six pieces (so all together with prep and cutting, 3 1/2 hours heavy work) is about what is sustainable for me right now. *

working sequence of forged elements

For my initial test, I started with a piece 42 inches long, drawing the required taper on one end. This to give me an adequate cold end to hang on to. The rough forging is done on the air hammer, with evening and straightening done after by hand. In the image above, that test piece has been cut to the average for the individual elements at 32 inches.

For the production sequence, the starting bars are cut to 52 inches, enough for one taper on each end. After the first taper is completed, this stretches the bar to 62 inches as shown. With two tapers complete, the bar reaches 72 inches total (better to have a bit too much material - than not enough).

group of three pieces in the forge, one end already tapered

 As you might guess, manipulating pieces up to six feet long poses problems in a normally tight working space. Because delays pushed the ability to start this work from the start of June to the start of July, summer heat now becomes an important consideration. For that reason, I have set up my twin burner propane forge at the entrance overhang into the workshop, placing the (considerable!) heat generated outside the building. The air hammer is set up just inside the door that is where that image was shot from, about 10 feet away from the forge.

main workshop floor, looking towards entrance (1)

Hand smoothing out the lumps and evening out is done on the large fixed anvil seen to the right in the image above. Ensuring the lines are straight is being done by forging against the heavy layout table seen in the lower left. (The top is a piece of 4 x 8 foot by 3/8 thick plate which permits this). 

My intent is to produce six finished tapers each working day until I have all these elements complete = a total of 8 days. I fully expect NOT to be able to maintain that pace straight through without a break. *

* Now officially a 'senior', I just 'ain't the man I once was'. Three hours serious forge work, added to the usual additional three plus hours every day for writing and other shop related tasks, is about what I can manage on anything like sustained basis.

1) that image was prepared for a commentary on 'Distancing at the Wareham Forge'. It shows the workshop set up for a typical training course here, with an additional anvil (just left of centre) and extra leg vice (normally set back against the right side near the larger anvil).

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Bloom to Bar to Blade

 As might be expected, I have a large collection of iron blooms, after over 20 years of experimental smelting. With the assistance of Neil Peterson, I have been trying to get a number of at least the smaller pieces compacted down into working bars. So far this has primarily focussed on sections in  500 to 1.5 kg range, basically half or quarter sections of our typical 3 - 5 kg results. (Noting here that there are a number of much larger, still complete blooms in the 8 - 11 kg range, plus the 16 kg monster made at ’65 for 65’.)

table of blooms (2016, so only to smelt #72 of the current 92)
Importantly, given the various source ores used, and the many variations on furnace design and sometimes method, the actual carbon content of the individual blooms can vary widely. There is everything from soft carbon free through to ultra high carbon (even to unforgeable cast iron) metals.
Any individual bloom itself is likely to have differences in carbon concentration between the bottom and top surfaces as iron is deposited and held at high temperature, usually for hours.

As any individual bloom is built up, the amount of slag also deposited has been found to vary considerably, from very spongy textures through to quite solid masses. The amount and nature of the initial consolidation hammering is obviously a factor here too.
The process of converting a raw bloom into a working bar most typically follows a process of compressing, folding and re-welding. The normal sequence is :
- flatten to a plate (or ‘book’)
- fold and weld into a ‘brick’
- fold and weld into a ‘billet’
- draw out into a ‘bar’
The amount of force required changes as the iron solidifies. This may seem obvious, but in truth just how light the strokes may be need to be at the start of this sequence is counter intuitive without experience. Even without much force, heavier hammers are best employed, to ensure penetration through the entire mass (for me this means switching from my primary 800 gm to a 1000 gm). As the pieces are forged up, it is almost ensured that the there will be additional welds both along the edges (90 degrees to the folds) and often into diagonal flaws.

All this taken together, results in a bar that will often have a distinctive linear, sometimes distorted, physical texture. Along with potential fine lines of slag inclusions, there are blended lines of changing carbon content throughout. These variations from a uniform structure can be made visible on a final object, especially if the surface is later polished and then acid etched.

Creating a bloomery iron bar requires considerable skill, experience, much labour and expended materials. Taken together, these bars are one of the most valuable materials available to an artisan blacksmith.

So what do you make from these small bars, most in the 200 - 500 gm range?
Generally, the highest value small objects for most blacksmiths are knives.

Now I have mostly stayed away from making blades from my bloomery iron. There are several reasons for this, one being that my work here has always been geared towards understanding early Northern European historic examples, not best possible production yields or aiming for high carbon alloys. Bloomery iron in North America has become completely dominated by the knife makers, where the bloomery process itself is seen as only a first starting step, not an objective of itself (something I remain very unhappy about).

forged blades, rough grind at this stage

To be completely fair, the blade forms here were largely a secondary consideration, with the simple tube handles almost an afterthought. This collection represents objects forged up over the last two (Covid) years, many languishing as rough forged blanks until the last month. All the low polished blades (only to 100 grit) have been lightly etched in ferric chloride to bring up variation in carbon contents within the parent blooms. This shows as either lines or mottled patches, the lightest areas having the lowest carbon content (least effected by the etch). Infrequent slag inclusions that remained show as thin dark lines, especially visible in #6 (which was also the starting bar with the highest variation in carbon content throughout).

detail, #5 Tool

In keeping with my general interest in Norse objects, all these knives are V grinds (not the more modern, if stronger, sabre grind). (1) Both #1 and #2 are commissions, so are based on specific artifact sources. Several are intended for small scale domestic use (textiles or food preparation) and generally conform within Period 4B, type C series from Coppergate, York. (2) The two thick and wide blades, straight backed with sweeping curved edges, are a shape suitable for wood carving (form fitting function).

knives as finished

1) Kitchen / Boning :   20 cm blade x 3 mm thick
                    natural antler (caribou) handle
                    core from DARC 11/08 (sparks roughly 1030+)
                    side slabs from Vinland 4 / 2010 (sparks roughly 1020)
                    ‘replica’ (3) of grave find at Ihre, Hellvi parish, Gotland, Sweden (4)

2) Small Norse Domestic : 10 cm blade x 4 mm thick (distal taper)
                    (owner will apply antler handle)
                    from Vinland 4 / 2010 (sparks roughly 1020)
                    a bit longer, but closest to #2829 from Coppergate

Boning #1 (top) and Small Domestic #2

3) Small Carving :      8 cm blade x 5 mm thick (distal taper)
                    natural walnut branch handle
                    from Slag Pit 2 / 2011 (from higher carbon end of the bar)
                    no specific prototype

4) Medium Kitchen :   13 cm blade x 2 mm thick (distal taper)
                    natural walnut branch handle
                    a bit longer than the samples, again roughly P 4B / T C from Coppergate
                    from Aristotle Furnace demo at CanIRON 9 /2013 (sparks roughly 1075)

Small Carving #3 (top) and Medium Kitchen #4

5) Tool :             10 cm blade x 5 mm thick
                    natural antler (caribou) handle
                    from Slag Pit 2 / 2011(variable carbon)
                    no specific prototype

6) Small Kitchen :      9 cm blade x 3 mm thick
                    natural antler (caribou) handle
                    again roughly P 4B / T C from Coppergate
                    from Aristotle Furnace demo at CanIRON 9 / 2013 (sparks roughly 1075)

Tool #5 (top) and Small Kitchen #6

The most probable destination for these knives will be as working tools into the hands of other members of DARC, many of whom have contributed their labour during the iron smelts that created the starting metal.
I will be offering knives # 3 - 6 for sale at the upcoming SCA ’Trillium War’ event over June 30 - July 3. The prices can be expected to be steep however, in consideration of the genesis of the material.

1) I don’t want to get into (yet another) argument here about whether ‘seax’ only refers to the ‘broken back’ shape, or any Norse knife. See an earlier commentaries:
2007, ‘Knives from the Viking Age
2010, ‘Knife? THAT'S not a knife…

2) Ottaway, P., 1992, ‘Anglo-Scandinavian Ironwork from Coppergate’, 1 872414 29

3) I don’t want to get into (yet another) argument here about ‘reproduction vs replica vs interpretation’. If interested, see a detailed commentary about these differences :
2020, ‘Reproduction, Replica or Interpretation’, in ‘The Iron Trillium’, Fall issue, Ontario Artist Blacksmith Assn.

4) Carlson, D., 2003, ‘Viking Knives from Gotland Sweden’, plate ‘Iron knife6’ (top), 91 973304 5 0

Thursday, April 20, 2023

EAC-13 : Sessions of (personal) interest

DARC presentations

Of interest

Of interest, but outside reasonable hours

Of interest to others?

Times given from Poland / converted to EST


Opening: Experimental Archaeology In Poland – History, Science and Education
by Grzegorz Osipowicz, Justyna Orłowska, Justyna Kuriga (PL)
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw


Session 1.A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 1.B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Paper 1.A.1: Disentangling the Complexity of the Gönnersdorf Plaquette Engravings: manual and robotic Experiments
by Jérôme Robitaille, Lisa-Elen Meyering (DE)

Paper 1.B.1: Iron Age Combustion Structures in the Western Mediterranean: an Approach from the Experimental Archaeology
by Maria-Carme Belarte, María Pastor Quiles, Marta Portillo, Carme Saorin, Marta Mateu Sagués, Alessandra Pecci, Sílvia Vila, Josep Pou, Georgina Castells, Jordi Morer, Joaquín Fernández (ES)


Paper 1.A.2: Experimental Reproduction of Traces Documented on Middle Palaeolithic Bone Retouchers from the Ciemna Cave
by Piotr Werens, Damian Stefański, Katarzyna Zarzecka-Szubińska (PL)

Paper 1.B.2: Experimental Cremations in Different burning Environments: Open versus semi-close Pyre in Crete, Greece
by Yannis Chatzikonstantinou, Evangelia Kiriatzi, Sevasti Triantaphyllou (GR)


Paper 1.A.3: What Did Neanderthals Wear on Their Feet? An Experimental Archaeological Investigation of Neanderthal Footwear
by Phoebe Baker, Andy Needham (UK)

Paper 1.B.3: Reconstructing the Pyrotechnological Development of The Harappans Using Ethnographic Parallels in The Region of Ghaggar, India
by Garima Singh (IN)


Paper 1.A.4: Late Palaeolithic Ornamentation in Experiments: A Case of an Ornamented Artefact from Birów Mountain in South Poland
by Tomasz Płonka, Marcin Diakowski (PL)

Poster 1.B.4: Bone Tubes from Corded Ware Culture as Sound Generators/Musical Instruments. Reconstructing Manufacture and Usage
by Dominika Tokarz (PL)


Coffee Break


Session 2.A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 2.B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Sponsor time

Sponsor time


Paper 2.A.1: Turning Roman Columns on the Lathe: Experimental Approach and Archaeological Analysis of Artefacts from North-Eastern Gaul
by Nicolas Revert & Brice Brigaud (FR)

Paper 2.B.1: Phytoliths Reference Collection from the Experimental Perspective
by Aleksandra Gawron-Szymczyk (PL)


Paper 2.A.2: Reconstructing the Workshop from Viborg Søndersø: New Insights into Viking Wooden Building Construction
by Jim Glazzard, Aimée Little, Steve Ashby (UK)

Paper 2.B.2: Was It Always Leather?
by Sally Herriett (UK)


Paper 2.A.3: All You Need is Mud: How Open-Air Museums can Champion Sustainability in the Built Environment
by Caroline Nicolay (UK)

Paper 2.B.3: Traceology on Prehistoric Wooden Artefacts, is it Possible?
by Grzegorz Osipowicz (PL), Justyna Orłowska (PL), Giedrė Piličiauskienė (LT), Gytis Piličiauskas (LT)



Paper 2.A.4: Experimental Archeology as a Tool for Understanding the Cultural Changes of Bone Artifacts from four Brazilian Early Holocene Sites
by Gabriela S. Mingatos, Mercedes Okumura (BR)

Paper 2.B.4: Prehispanic Woodcrafts in the Canary Islands: technical Processes and experimental Program
by Paloma Vidal-Matutano, Antoni Palomo, Dorota Wojtczak, Amelia Rodríguez, Idaira Brito-Abrante, Jared Carballo-Pérez, Kiara Ortega, Salvador Pardo-Gordó (ES)


Poster 2.A.5: The Saka Barrow Building Technology: Experimenting with Turf and Logs
by Ulan Umitkaliev, Diana Ayapova (KZ)

Paper 2.B.5: Smash and Burn: Apple Seed Damage Characteristics for the Identification of Actions and Processes Performed on Apples
by Jessi Berndt (DE)

Poster 2.A.6: Identification of Plants in Mud Building Materials. An Experimental Archaeology Project
by María Pastor Quiles (ES)




Question & Answer Session 1.A and 2.A

Question & Answer Session 1.B and 2.B






Session 3.A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 3.B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Sponsor time

Sponsor time


Paper 3.A.1: The late Viking Age Warship, Skuldelev 5: exploring old Interpretations with a new Reconstruction
by Martin R. Dael, Tríona Sørensen (DK)

Paper 3.B.1: Archaeological Experiments in the Study of the Textile Economy of the Wielbark Culture
by Magdalena Przymorska-Sztuczka (PL)


Paper 3.A.2: What can be Difficult in Building the Boat? The Experiments Released During the First International Camp of Experimental Archaeology, Toruń 2021
by Justyna Orłowska, Justyna Kuriga, Grzegorz Osipowicz (PL) 

Paper 3.B.2: Teeth, Fibre-Crafts, and Health: What Experimental Archaeology can tell us about the Textile Workers of the Ancient World
by Anita Radini (IE)


Paper 3.A.3: The Gislinge Boat Open Source Project: from Experimental Archaeology to Outreach
by Tríona Sørensen (DK)

Paper 3.B.3: Z for warp, S for weft. Investigating Choices of Yarn in English Medieval Textiles
by Kat Stasinska (UK)


Paper 3.A.4: The Bronze Age Chariot of the Sintashta-Petrovka Period
by Igor Chechushkov (US), Ivan Semyan (AR)

Paper 3.B.4: How Warped the Loom. An Examination of Loom Traces on Woven Cloth
by Jo Duke (CA)


Paper 3.A.5: Experimental Archaeological Observation on the Base of Chinese Terracotta Xiao Flute Player Figurine (202 BC-220 AD)
by Bangcheng Tang (CN)

Paper 3.B.5: Tarquinia’s Tablets: A Reconstruction of Tablet Weaving Patterns found on the Tomb of the Triclinium’s Left Wall
by Richard Joseph Palmer (US)




Question & Answer Session 3.A

Question & Answer Session 3.B


Coffee Break




Session 4
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Sponsor time


Round Table SUN including Presentations and Discussion


Free Time


Dinner (Optional - at own expense - 30 EUR, need to register & pay in advance)
Restauracja Gospoda Pod Modrym Fartuchem & Krajina Piva Pub
Rynek Nowomiejski 8, 87-100 Toruń
location Google Maps





Moderator: Phoebe Baker


Sponsor time


Paper 5.1: Searching for ‘the true Colors’ of the Eastern European Chalcolithic painting Techniques, through experimental and archaeometrical Approaches
by Felix-Adrian Tencariu, Ana Drob, Maria-Cristina Ciobanu (RO)


Paper 5.2: Not just for Food: processing Unio sp. Shells at the Gumelnița Communities (mill. V BC)
by Monica Mărgărit, Valentin Radu (RO)


Paper 5.3: Experimental Beadmaking with Roman Glass
by Sue Heaser (UK)


Paper 5.4: Rediscovering the Process of Making Type 2 & Type 3 Aiglets
by Gerald A. Livings (US)


Paper 5.5: Experimental Tattooing and Analysis of Preserved Skin Markings on Human Mummies
by Aaron Deter-Wolf (US), Danny Riday (NZ), Maya Sialuk Jacobsen (GL)


Paper 5.6: Exploring Rock Art Application Techniques: An Experimental Approach To Study Rock Paintings from La Candelaria (Catamarca, Argentina)
by Matías Landino, Eugenia Ahets Etcheberry, Lucas Gheco, Marcos R. Gastaldi, Marcos Tascon, Marcos Quesada3, Fernando Marte (AR)


Question & Answer Session 5


Day 2 - Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Location: ​Collegium Humanisticum at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, ul. Bojarskiego 1, 87-100 Toruń
(location google maps:

All presentations are on the spot and online, except evening session 10, which is online only. Please click here for abstracts.




Session 6
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw


Sponsor time


Paper 6.1: Impact of High Temperatures on Macroscopic Features of Prehistoric Pottery
by Jan Ledwoń (PL)


Paper 6.2: The Contribution of different Generations of Experiments on understanding the Function of past Human Technologies and the Character of early Hominin Decision-making Processes
by Joao Marreiros (DE,PT), Ivan Calandra (DE), Geoff Carver (DE), Walter Gneinsinger (DE), Eduardo Paixao (PT), Jérôme Robitaille (DE), Lisa Schunk (DE,PL)


Paper 6.3: Manual Vs. Mechanised Experiments – Evaluating the Effect of Human Variability on Tool Performance and Use-Wear Formation
by Lisa Schunk (PL,DE), Ivan Calandra (DE), Walter Gneisinger (DE), João Marreiros (DE,PT)


Paper 6.4: Perspectives on the Importance of prior Understanding for an Experimental Archaeological Project
by Vibeke Bischoff (DK)


Poster 6.5: Technotypes Definition and Cultural Transmission
by Concepción Torres Navas (ES)


Poster 6.6: NFDI4Objects – TRAIL3.3: A Workflow Tool for archaeological Experiments and Analytics
by Ivan Calandra (DE), Geoff Carver (DE), João Marreiros (DE), Erica Hanning (DE), Roeland Paardekooper (DK), Christoph Berthold (DE), Susanne Greiff (DE)


Poster 6.7: PCI Registered Reports for Experimental Archaeology: how to improve Experimental Design before it is too late
by Ivan Calandra (DE)


Question & Answer Session 6


Coffee Break


Session 7A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 7B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Roeland Paardekooper


Sponsor time

Sponsor time


Paper 7.A.1: The Sound of Success in the Early Palaeolithic; Better Knapping is Brighter, Clearer and More Attention Grabbing
by Kiefer Duffy, Mark White, Sally Street (UK)

Paper 7.B.1: Vounous Symposium: Present and Future Plans
by E. Giovanna Fregni (IT)


Paper 7.A.2: Size Matters? Evaluating Correlation between Wide to Thickness Ratio and Breakage Patterns during Cinegetic Activities of Upper Solutrean Hunter-Gatherers. The Winged and Stemmed Points Case
by Martín Julio García Natale, Samuel Castillo Jiménez (ES)

Paper 7.B.2: Baltic Experimental Archaeology and Ancient Technology Summer School Between Science, Education, And Tourism: Conclusions after first 10 Years
by Artūrs Tomsons (LV)


Paper 7.A.3: Is it Worth Curating? Production, Use and Maintenance of the Neolithic Metabasite-Made Macrolithic Tools
by Bernadeta Kufel-Diakowska (PL), Marcin Chłoń (PL), Michał Borowski (PL), Radomir Tichý (CZ), Karel Kučírek (CZ), Martin Drahorád (CZ), Aleš Panáček (CZ)

Paper 7.B.3: Putting Life into a Stone Age Dwelling Construction: A Joint Experimental Venture of Volunteers and Academics
by Annelou van Gijn (NL)



Paper 7.A.4: Investigating Flint Awl Snapping in the British Mesolithic Using Integrated Methods
by Andy Needham (UK), Jessica Bates (UK), Aimée Little (UK), Nicky Milner (UK), Diederik Pomstra (NL)

Paper 7.B.4Nurture Visitor Experience Through Experimentation: in Search of Antique Clothing
by Gaëlle Desgouttes, Laure Vergonzanne, Céline Nicolas (FR)


Paper 7.A.5: From Mould to Earth: Experimental and Traceological Study of Lusatian Socketed Axes
by Kamil Nowak, Albin Sokół, Dawid Sych (PL)

Paper 7.B.5: Hands-On History: Teaching Experimental Archaeology in a School Setting
by Nathalie Roy (US)



Poster 7.B.6: Youth Science. NCU Students’ Achievements
by Zuzanna Majbrodzka, Kacper Baranowski, Anna Rauchfleisz, Maria Skudlarska, Maciej Urban, Klaudia Wernerowicz (PL)


Question & Answer Session 7.A

Question & Answer Session 7.B






Session 8A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 8B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Sponsor time

Sponsor time


Paper 8.A.1: Experimental Study of Grinding Installation
by Ana Tetruashvili, Davit Dolaberidze, Tina Davadze (GE)

Paper 8.B.1: A Multitude of Microorganisms: Mediating Historical Drink Recreation
by Laura Angotti (US)


Paper 8.A.2: Grinding or Polishing? Replicating grinding and polishing Traces found on Neolithic flint Axes
by Lasse van den Dikkenberg (NL)

Paper 8.B.2: Experiments to Elucidate Cooking Methods Using Reconstructed Pottery
by Tetsuya Shiroishi, Hashiguchi Yutaka (JP)


Paper 8.A.3: Physics of Bipolar Reduction: Quantitative Approach to the bipolar Mechanic through Video Motion Analysis
by Görkem Cenk Yeşilova, Adrián Arroyo, Andreu Ollé, Josep Maria Vergès (ES)

Paper 8.B.3: Comparative Cheesemaking: Roman and Neolithic Cheese and the Ceramic Vessels Used to Produce them
by Scott D Stull (US)


Paper 8.A.4: “Slugs” of the Itaparica Tradition, an experimental Approach of the GO-JA-01 Collection
by José Lucas Otero Couto, Sibele Aparecida Viana, Edilson Teixeira (BR)

Paper 8.B.4: Stypsis, Wine and Resin – Technology of Scented Oil Production from Bronze Age Aegean and Beyond
by Katarzyna Gromek (US)


Paper 8.A.5: Set In Stone – Ornamentation of Stone Battle-Axes from the Experimental Perspective
by Wojciech Bronowicki, Tomasz Płonka, Marcin Chłoń (PL)

Paper 8.B.5:  Lithics From the Neolithic Shell-Bead Workshops from The Near East - an Experimental Approach
by Katarzyna Pyżewicz, Marcin Białowarczuk, Witold Grużdź, Michał Przeździecki (PL)


Poster 8.A.6: Unconventional Use of Axes: Creating a Reference Collection of Polished Stone Tools Used for Grinding Ochre
by Anđa Petrović (UK), Diederik Pomstra (UK,NL) Aimée Little (UK)

Poster 8.B.6: First View on Functions of Bronze Age Pottery Vessels from Southwest Poland
by Aleksandra Gawron-Szymczyk (PL)


Poster 8.A.7: The Importance of Flintknapping Demonstrations and Workshops in Order to Further Develop Experimental Archaeology in Brazil
by Maria Eduarda Vilela e Donegá (BR),  Rafael Carvalho (BR), Leticia Correa (BR),  João Carlos Moreno (BR), Mercedes Okumura (BR), Astolfo Araujo (BR), Bruce Bradley (US)


Poster 8.A.8: The Use of Charcoal in the Production of Rock Art from Patagonia (Southern South America). An Experimental Perspective
by Ariel David Frank (AR)


Coffee Break




Session 9A
Location: Room 009
Moderator: Jess Shaw

Session 9B
Location: Room 008
Moderator: Giovanna Fregni


Sponsor time

Sponsor time


Paper 9.A.1: The Origin and Evolution of cultural Transmission in Hominins as observed in Experimental and Experiential Archaeology
by Maria Eduarda Vilela e Donegá, João Carlos Moreno (BR)

Paper 9.B.1: “Look at the Bones!” - Adding Bone in a Bloomery Iron Smelt. A Case Study of a practical experimental Test
by Darrell Markewitz (CA)


Paper 9.A.2: Working Vegetal Materials with Obsidian, Basalt and other Volcanic Rocks. Exploring Similarities and Differences through Use-Wear Analysis
by Idaira Brito-Abrante, Amelia Rodríguez-Rodríguez (ES)

Paper 9.B.2: Experimental Archaeology and Assumptions about the Products from Prehistoric Ancient Iron Smelting Sites of Northern Thailand
by Yoddanai Sukkasam (TH)


Paper 9.A.3: Oxygen and Temperature may be the Driving Factors in Deciding the Types of Necrobiome in a Wrapped Microenvironment
by Branka Franicevic (UK)

Paper 9.B.3: Breaking Through the Copper Curtain: Archaeological Experiment of Copper Ore Beneficiation and Smelting in Chalcolithic Technology
by Inbar Meyerson, Omri Yagel, Erez Ben-Yosef (IL)


Poster 9.A.4: Mining or Ore-Processing Bone Tools? A Case Study from Eastern Ukraine
by Olga Zagorodnia (UK)

Paper 9.B.4: Does Corrosion Matter? Experimental Study of the Influence of Patination on Use-Wear Traces on the Copper Alloy Metalwork
by Jakub Michalik, Kamil Nowak (PL)


Poster 9.A.5: Can we identify Handedness on the Gönnersdorf Plaquettes? An experimental Approach on the Lateralisation of Upper Palaeolithic Engravers
by Jérôme Robitaille (DE), Lisa-Elen Meyering (UK)




Question & Answer Session 8.A and 9.A

Question & Answer Session 8.B and 9.B


Closing Notes





Session 10 ONLINE ONLY
Moderator: Phoebe Baker


Sponsor time


Paper 10.1: Circle of Life: Trevisker Ware
by Laura-Marie Miucci (IE)


Paper 10.2: The Investigation of Recent Reconstruction of Black and Red Figure Lekythoi for Restoration Purposes Through X-Ray and X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy. Ethical Restoration Practice or Not?
by A.P. Panagopoulou (GR,NL), A. Mandaliou (GR), G. Rousouneli (GR), M. Roggenbucke (GR)


Paper 10.3: Creating Red: Reproducing Opaque Red Glass from Iron Age Western and Central Europe
by Rachel Wood (US)


Paper 10.4: A Comparison of two Merovingian Pottery Kilns Found in Belgium. Results of the Experiment and Tool for Experimental Research
by Line van Wersch, Marie Demelenne, Sylvie De Longueville, Véronique Danese (BE)


Paper 10.5: Belting Up; Building Technical Literacies in the History of Technology Through Experimental Archaeology
by Michael Roberts (CA)


Paper 10.6: Experimenter's Body Analysis: a Transdisciplinary Approach
by Thaisa Martins (BR)


Question & Answer Session 10 and Closing Notes

Reconstructing the Workshop from Viborg Søndersø: New Insights into Viking Wooden Building Construction (paper)
Jim Glazzard1, Aimée Little1, Steve Ashby1
1 YEAR Centre, Department of Archaeology, University of York, UK

This paper will present the methodology and interim findings of a project that brings together experimental archaeology, artefact studies, and the social use of space.
The aim is to understand the daily experience of non-ferrous metalworkers of Viking-age Britain and Scandinavia using actualistic methods. The first task involved reconstructing a Viking-age workshop at the YEAR Centre, at the University of York. 
The workshop chosen for reconstruction was excavated at Viborg Søndersø, Denmark, in 2001. While this initially seemed to be a straightforward task, with the 3 by 5 metre building being an ideal size for a reconstructed workshop, the idiosyncrasies of the original building have resulted in new insights into Viking age wooden building construction.
Lessons learned from the construction process have provided a better understanding of the original building: giving insights into the most likely methods used, including the identification of specific challenges likely faced by the original builders. These, in turn, have implications for the interpretation of the building, the methods used to build it, and the status of the artisans who worked there.
The result is that this workshop, which has been characterised as a “primitive hut” from the excavated remains, emerges as a deliberately sited, carefully built structure, well suited to the work carried out inside. The idiosyncrasies of the structure can then be explained in terms of the building methods, and materials used.

The late Viking Age warship, Skuldelev 5: exploring old interpretations with a new reconstruction (paper)
Martin R. Dael1 & Tríona Sørensen1
1 The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark 

In 1962, five late Viking Age ships were excavated from Roskilde Fjord, in Denmark. The form and function of the Skuldelev Ships, as they came to be known, embodies the diversity and range of seafaring and shipbuilding in the late Viking Age: vessels for fishing, coastal and ocean-going trade, and two examples of the most iconic Viking Age craft of all – the long, narrow and well-rowed warships. 
The Viking Ship Museum’s boatyard completed the first round of full-scale, experimental archaeological reconstruction of all five Skuldelev Ships in 2004. Since then, work has focused on the ‘second generation’ of Skuldelev reconstructions and in July 2022, a project focused on a new full-scale reconstruction of the 17,6 m long warship, Skuldelev 5, began. 
The construction of Skuldelev 5 is unique when compared with other late Viking Age ship-finds. From the outset, the ship was built using reused material taken from at least two other vessels and the hull is also composed of several different species of wood. These details have led to a degree of academic discussion regarding the ship’s construction and use. 
This paper will present an introduction to the framework for the new Skuldelev 5 reconstruction project, seen from both a boatbuilder’s and an archaeologist’s perspective. The complexities – and peculiarities – of the original ship’s hull, and previous interpretations of the ship-find, will be explored, providing the foundation for a new dialogue concerning the construction and use of the original ship-find, and the research programme in development for the forthcoming full-scale reconstruction.

What can be Difficult in Building the Boat? The Experiments Released During the First International Camp of Experimental Archaeology, Toruń 2021 (paper)
Justyna Orłowska1, Justyna Kuriga1, Grzegorz Osipowicz1 
Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland

This presentation reports two main archaeological experiments that were conducted during the first International Camp of Experimental Archaeology, which took a place in August 2021 in the Golub-Dobrzyń, close to Toruń, Poland. During the two weeks of this event, its participants divided into two groups have undertaken a task to reconstruct and test two archaic boats: a dugout and a leather-covered boat known more from ethnographic contexts as the so-called skin-on-frame canoe. All work carried out was performed exclusively using materials, techniques and tools known in the Stone and Bronze Ages. One of the boats build during these experiments, 4-meter-long skin-on-frame canoe will be exposed during the conference.

The Gislinge Boat Open Source Project: from experimental archaeology to outreach (paper)
Tríona Sørensen1
1 The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark

The Gislinge Boat Open Source Project took place at the Viking Ship Museum from 2015-17. The idea behind the project was an entirely new one for the Museum, namely, to explore how open source approaches could be applied to experimental archaeology and boatbuilding. 
With the aim of getting people involved in building their own version of the Gislinge Boat - a 7.7 m long Danish boat-find dated to ca. 1125 AD - the working drawings for the boat were made available for free download and a programme of digital dissemination communicated all aspects of the building process, providing an informal ‘how-to guide’ to building the boat.
The initial results of the project were presented at EAC 11 in 2017. This paper will provide an updated account of what has happened in the interim. It’s now over seven years since the project was formally concluded at the Museum boatyard but it continues to have a life of its own online, thanks to the digital community social media provides. 
Selected case-studies of boats that have been built from as far afield as Normandy, France and Connecticut, USA, will examine the potential experimental archaeology has to reach out to, and engage with, a much wider community than the ‘traditional’ museum-going public, and how this in turn can generate new interest in experimental archaeology as a discipline. The impact the project has had on the Viking Ship Museum’s dissemination practice, and the extent to which it continues to influence our approaches to the documentation and communication of maritime experimental archaeology will also be explored, allowing an opportunity to reflect on the often-overlooked social aspects of museum outreach.

Z for warp, S for weft. Investigating Choices of Yarn in English Medieval Textiles (paper)
Kat Stasinska1
1 AOC Archaeology, UK

Most Medieval textiles in England (9th to 15th centuries) were woven in a specific way: with threads of weft and warp twisted into a different direction (Z-spun yarn in the warp and S-spun yarn in the weft). It differed meaningfully from the technological choices of the earlier times (83 to 87% of early Anglo-Saxon textiles were woven with warp and weft threads twisted in the same direction). The reason for this change is not clear (with some researchers suggesting aesthetic choice or a foreign influence).  
My research aimed to discover the reason behind this transformation. I have woven several samples from the hand-spun fleece of a Shetland sheep (Medium type fleece, typical for late Anglo-Saxon England). I prepared 3 sets of samples: woven in 1. tabby, 2. simple twill and 3. broken diamond twill.  
I compared the physical properties of textiles woven in ZZ and ZS techniques. I focused on comparing:  

  • Strength (measured by applying weight and checking how much weight samples can take)  

  • Elasticity (measured by applying a stretching force and checking for deformation)  

I took under consideration an often-suggested possibility that the change in the weaving technology was a purely aesthetic choice. To investigate this option, I compared the difference in visual properties such as visibility of pattern and appearance when dyed (samples were dyed with madder, Rubia tinctorum - a dyestuff popular in Anglo-Saxon England). A poll in person was conducted to collect opinions about the appearance of samples woven in ZZ and ZS, both dyed and not dyed.

How Warped the Loom. An Examination of Loom Traces on Woven Cloth (paper)
Jo Duke1
1 Independent Researcher, Ontario, Canada

Sometime between 1000 and 1800 CE, for much of Europe, there was a transition from weaving cloth on upright warp weighted looms to horizontal floor looms. This transition includes the addition of a reed beater as part of the mechanism of the loom and a switch from the warp being held under tension by loom weights to its supply and tensioning from a second beam.  
One key question is: can the loom type be determined based on the textile remains, often small fragments, and, if so, what features are the most useful to look for?  
To address this, replicates of selected textile finds from Europe and the North Atlantic have been woven using each of the two loom types and the qualities of the replicated fabrics have been examined for discriminating features. Focus was placed on the amount of draw in, the spacing of the threads, and the regulation of the warp tension.  The use of a reed reduces draw in and adds uniformity to the spacing of warp threads.  It also removes the need for a separate beater, and therefore changes how evenly the weft threads are packed in the cloth. The addition of a second beam may also reduce draw in and regulates the tension of the warp while weaving.

Tarquinia’s Tablets: A Reconstruction of Tablet Weaving Patterns found on the Tomb of the Triclinium’s Left Wall (paper)
Richard Joseph Palmer1
University of Kentucky, USA

The revival of tablet weaving and its study has been primarily focused on Northern European designs from the Iron Age to the medieval period. These designs are very impressive and include opulence such as wide weaves using dozens of tablets, dizzying patterns, and inclusions of gold thread and silk. Iron Age Northern Italian and Mediterranean tablet weaves were used in many of the same applications as their Northern European counterparts, but less archaeology has been done on the tablet weaves originating from these areas. The designs for these patterns primarily survive in the art and architecture of the Mediterranean. This experiment takes the surviving art, depicting clothing from the Tomb of the Triclinium in Tarquinia, and reconstructs both the patterns and the tablets depicted. The few surviving tablet woven fragments from Etruria will help fill in the gaps of knowledge, alongside other textile studies from the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. This starts with spinning thread on spindle whorls, recreating the proper thread width, and ends with finished tablet weaves and published patterns. In reconstructing these few patterns and tablets, the door can be opened for more Etruscan and Classical study and tablet weaving reconstructions to join the well-developed experimental archaeology of Northern European textiles.

Experimental Beadmaking with Roman Glass (paper)
Sue Heaser1
Glass Bead Archaeology Studio, Suffolk, UK

My research on Early Medieval glass beads from Britain and Europe involves replicating ancient monochrome and polychrome beads to identify the making and decorating techniques. I use only replica tools and a heat source of similar temperatures to the likely furnaces used then. This has led to a greater understanding of the techniques of ancient beadmakers which has fine-tuned bead categories and identified beads that were probably made by single individuals or those from one workshop. 
I used modern soda-lime beadmakers’ glass from Murano that has similar chemical constituents to ancient glasses as shown from XRF and other analyses. But it was important to be sure that this glass behaved in a similar way in the flame to the ancient glasses. I needed to study the physical properties of the ancient glass, its melting point, working temperature range and behaviour in the flame. 
Roman glass was widely used for beadmaking in early medieval times, so I approached the Museum of London. They kindly supplied me with a quantity of Roman cullet (waste glass) to experiment on. My presentation will show the results of my experiments with videos of replica beadmaking, and photographs of beads made from Roman glass, compared with excavated beads of the period. My tests show that Roman glass behaves almost identically in the flame to the modern soda-lime glass which proves that the techniques I have discovered are valid. I will also show the results from colouring Roman glass with the same metallic oxides found in ancient glass to create colourful polychrome replica beads.

Perspectives on the Importance of prior Understanding for an Experimental Archaeological Project (paper)
Vibeke Bischoff1
1The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark

In 2012, a full-scale reconstruction of the Oseberg Ship from 820, Saga Oseberg, was launched as part of an experimental archaeological project, designed to investigate the ship’s sailing capabilities. The initial test-sailing was conducted in line with the principles for handling traditional West Norwegian square-sailed boats from the 19th and 20th centuries. The ship performed badly, and the reconstruction was judged to be incorrect. Subsequent test-sailing in 2015 undertaken with a more open and investigative methodology was conducted, which gave rise to more positive results.
In this paper, I will present my thoughts on the importance of prior understanding based on my experiences with the Oseberg Ship, but I believe that there are parallels to other types of projects too, whether they are houses built on land or ships at sea. Our prior understanding and experience have an impact on the questions we ask of both the archaeological material and the reconstruction – and on the results we achieve. 
Focus on the importance of prior understanding for both reconstruction and their subsequent testing, must be addressed. Our bodily approaches as humans have such a significant impact on all processes that it is a vital, we have an awareness of it. Prior understanding and experience can be used to ask relevant questions and conduct investigations, not to find answers, as reconstructions are an interpretation of an artefact, and the results will therefore render probabilities rather than present concrete truths. 
We who work with experimental archaeology, must be conscious, reflective and descriptive in terms of our prior understanding in relation to the projects we work with, because we are modern people attempting to interpret the actions of people from another time. 

Hands-On History: Teaching Experimental Archaeology in a School Setting (paper)
Nathalie Roy1
Glasgow Middle School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

My Roman Technology students recreate the products and processes of ancient Roman daily life through experimental archaeology. Each class is a hands-on history lab in which young teens (ages 10-14) learn about the ancient classical world by experiencing it first-hand. They have recreated the makeup recipes of Ovid and the hairstyles of marble statues, cooked biscuits based on the recipes of Cato the Elder, built brick kilns to fire pottery, crushed oak galls to make ink, etc. The class is a unique experience, but it doesn’t happen by magic. Planning and executing each unit of study is a complicated and time-consuming process.
In this paper session, I will talk about the specifics of the class and explain how I teach experimental archaeology to young students in practical terms. Specifically, I will discuss two large-scale projects to illustrate my process. In the first, creating a twenty-foot analemmatic mosaic sundial, students learned to cut stone tesserae and design and lay out a Roman-style mosaic. In the second, students built a full-scale Roman road through an open space on our campus. Through a series of ten steps, I will detail how I researched, planned activities, organized supplies, delegated work, reached out to experts, and taught the lessons all while giving the students the best experience possible.

Comparative Cheesemaking: Roman and Neolithic Cheese and the Ceramic Vessels Used to Produce them (paper)
Scott D Stull1
1 Moffett Center, SUNY Cortland, USA

Cheesemaking in Europe has a history that goes back to the early Neolithic, roughly 7000 years ago, based on archaeological evidence. We also have good archaeological and documentary evidence of cheesemaking from the Roman period. Through the replication and use of the ceramic vessels from these two distinct periods, we can gain a more complete understanding of how cheese was made in the past. This study examines how the shape of the vessels has a significant impact on the type of cheese possible in these forms. Different approaches to cheese production are tested with these vessels to identify what kind of cheese works with these different vessels, and as a result, how that cheese would have been stored and consumed in these past societies. The Neolithic cheese strainer in particular required extensive experimental testing to determine how cheese could have been produced in this kind of vessel without the use of cloth lining or other elements to strain the curd, and these tests will be described in the paper. 

“Look at the Bones!” - Adding Bone in a Bloomery Iron Smelt. A Case Study of a practical experimental Test (paper)
Darrell Markewitz1
the Wareham Forge, Ontario, Canada

Through 2019, much was made in the popular press suggesting that during the Viking Age, exhumed human bone had been used in the chain of production from iron ore through to finished swords. Contradicting this, considerable experience with small scale direct reduction process bloomery iron smelting furnaces indicated that at least while creating the iron itself, the effect of adding bone would be minimal, if any. To establish what kind of physical traces that might remain if quantities of bone were added during smelting, in June 2020 a full furnace build and firing was undertaken with a range of animal bones added, then the resulting debris field recorded. 
The concept, design and implementation of this experiment is discussed, and how limits on methods, instrumentation and analyzing results shaped the final conclusions. This discussion suggests how even a simple experiment, if carefully recorded, can add to the body of available knowledge, and may prove insightful both educators and other investigators. 

Experimental Archaeology and Assumptions about the Products from Prehistoric Ancient Iron Smelting Sites of Northern Thailand (paper)
Yoddanai Sukkasam1
1 The Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture, Thailand

This paper is aimed to present a results of five years archaeometallurgical research and Experimental archaeology research in the basin of Li District Lamphun Province, Northern Thailand. To present: 

  1. The ancient iron-smelting site from archaeological survey and excavation in Li District, Lamphun Province

  2. The findings from the synthesis of knowledge through experimental archaeology

The survey indicates that  there are no less than 40 ancient iron smelting sites in Li District, Lamphun Province. The Ancient iron smelting sites date around 500 BC - 100 BC. The dating indicated that the group of iron smelting site in Li District, Lumphun province is the oldest iron smelting site in northern Thailand nowadays.
The archaeological excavation and evidence analysis of Li ancient iron-smelting site in Lamphun Province have revealed that the Direct Iron Smelting Process operating temperature at roughly 1,150-1,300 °C by using a shaft furnace with a diameter between 90-100 cm. The height of the furnace is between 180-200 cm. The furnace was formed by moulding a cylindrical clay. There are the slots that act as air ducts as well as observation points. In the lower part of the furnace, four slag notches that drilled in square shape. 
These results lead to the study of Experimental Archaeology which indicated that the type of Li ancient iron smelting caused the turbulent flow in the furnace and finally produced a Ring-Shaped Iron Bloom. This is the unique product, and their technique is the highlight of this ancient iron smelting furnace.

Breaking Through the Copper Curtain: Archaeological Experiment of Copper Ore Beneficiation and Smelting in Chalcolithic Technology (paper)
Inbar Meyerson1, Omri Yagel1, Erez Ben-Yosef1
Tel Aviv University, Israel

This study presents an experiment that aims to reconstruct Chalcolithic copper production in the southern Levant region (4500-3800 BCE) with a particular focus on the importance of the beneficiation stage. While previous research on ancient copper smelting has often centered on variables related to furnace design and operation, it is now recognized that the unique characteristics of individual ore bodies, including the nature of the host rock, the quantity and purity of minerals, and trace elements, can affect multiple stages of the smelting process. The beneficiation stage, which involves labor-intensive and repetitive tasks such as collecting, processing, and selecting raw materials, is often underrepresented in archaeometallurgical research and experiments.
To address this gap in knowledge, we conducted an experiment in 2020 using ore from the Timna Valley in the southern Levant and focusing specifically on the beneficiation stage. Our results demonstrate that this stage is crucial to the success of ancient metal production. The beneficiation process was carried out at various stages of the production chain using traditional methods, and we used pXRF analysis to show the increased copper values in the ore after each stage. In addition, we documented the experiment in as much detail as possible, including times, locations, weights, and images, in order to facilitate comparison with other experiments and enable replication of our results in the future.

Creating Red: Reproducing Opaque Red Glass from Iron Age Western and Central Europe (paper)
Rachel Wood1
1 University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Opaque red glass, a popular inclusion in copper-alloy based military gear of Late Iron Age western and central Europe, required intense practical knowledge to create. Artists needed a great deal of precision, ranging from the choice of ingredients, the quantity of each, the heat of the flames, and the length of time necessary to create a specific red color in a reducing environment. Successful creation of opaque red glass could only be achieved if the artisan had the knowledge and skills necessary to determine which moments of this chaîne opératoire would create the desired effect: a “sealing wax red” final product. In this presentation, I will focus on the skills necessary to create opaque red glass, particularly relating to the reducing atmosphere and time necessary in the fire, from an experiential and experimental standpoint, and explore the opportune moments which artisans needed to be wary of to gain the desired results for the market. I will explain the process behind my experimental reproduction of opaque red glass, which will begin in January 2023. This project is part of my dissertation and began with the initial research from previously published chemical analyses and scholarly articles on glass production in the ancient world. It is my hope that this project and presentation will shed light on the experience and patience necessary for successful production of a popular glass in the ancient world.

Belting Up; Building Technical Literacies in the History of Technology Through Experimental Archaeology (paper)
Michael Roberts1
York University, Toronto, Canada

While graduate history programmes usually require language literacies, technical literacies are not seen as necessary or teachable skills, and most programmes lack both facilities and methods to help researchers develop them. Outside the academy, however, there are extensive resources for learning the skills, habits, and sensitivities associated with the technology of the past.  In this paper, I argue that neither archives nor artifactual remains can be fully interpreted without access to the tacit, sensory, and procedural knowledge historical actors took for granted, and that to achieve this access, academic historians must widen their understanding of how historical research is conducted.
Referencing the work of William Marshall (1745-1818), as well as more familiar works on participant observation, I offer one potential strategy for formalizing knowledge gained through experiential methods. I will illustrate the benefits of this type of work through my own readings of rural engineer’s diaries conducted in the context of extensive experiential work which I began prior to returning to academic study.  Some of this work has been conducted within a continuous teaching tradition that reaches back to the historical actors I study, and some is the product of reconstruction; I will present some preliminary notes on the advantages and draw-backs of these different methods.
Technical literacies are as important to the study of the past as language skills, but they have been undervalued within the academy. This paper contributes to a growing effort to include and learn from scholars outside the university tradition, and to recognize that “other” ways of knowing are crucial to a full understanding of the past.


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

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