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Title: The archaeology of iron production : Romano-British evidence from the Exmoor region
Author: Bray, Lee Shaun.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3477 9970
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2006
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This research addresses the academic discontinuity between the technically-focussed, science-based discipline of archaeometallurgy and the humanistic field of archaeology. Fundamentally, this is achieved through the adoption of a definition of technology, not merely as a form of human adaptation to the environment involving the manipulation of the physical and chemical properties of materials, but as a phenomenon which at once shapes and is shaped by the social, economic and ideological contexts in which it is situated. It follows that much of the variation in the ways in which metallurgy was undertaken in the past are the result of their human context and that this will be manifest in the archaeological record. Thus, the investigation of metallurgical activity has the potential to inform wider archaeological research which in turn is of use in providing explanations for some of the variation in the archaeometallurgical record that are more nuanced than those based on purely technical considerations. The value of such an approach is demonstrated by an analysis of Romano-British iron production in the Exmoor region of South-West Britain. This has both methodological and interpretational aspects. Methodologically, two techniques are developed for the investigation of deposits of smelting waste, an aspect of archaeometallurgical evidence that has been neglected, in contrast to the analysis of individual fragments of waste. The first is a classification scheme, based on detailed field observation, that enables the in-depth analysis of stratigraphy in terms of the sequence, intensity and nature of metallurgical activity, providing an overall interpretation pertinent to both archaeometallurgists and archaeologists. Secondly, a method for the quantification of bloomery iron production is developed, based on experimental and ethnographic evidence. This not only enables an assessment of the output of metal from a site that is relevant to research concerning the wider economic environment, but suggests that previous estimates for Romanperiod iron production have been too great by a significant margin. From an interpretational perspective, an anthropological approach is adopted that examines production and specialisation using evidence from the wider archaeological record in combination with that from the Exmoor region. This suggests a model in which iron production was in the hands of extended kin-groups. The variation apparent in the mode and volume of iron production on different sites over time is related to a variety of factors chief among which are its socio-political context, demand for the metal and fluctuations in the stability of the political and economic environment. Finally,the value of an approach to archaeometallurgy that considers the effects of the beliefs and ideology of the iron workers themselves is explored and alternative interpretations offered for some aspects of the evidence from the Exmoor sites. It is argued that the full potential and value of metallurgical evidence is not being realised due to a lack of recognition of the considerable common ground that exists between archaeology and archaeometallurgy. Only by pursuing broad-based research strategies that combine, in a complementary way, investigation of the human context of metal production with more traditional technical analysis will this be rectified and metallurgical evidence be able to assume the more central role in archaeological investigation it deserves
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available