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Title: Ironworking in northwest Wales : an evolutionary analysis
Author: Charlton, Michael
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis investigates technological evolution in bloomery iron production. Patterns of variation in archaeological, historical, and metallurgical data on early ironworking systems are tracked across space-time and explained in terms of evolutionary processes. While some patterns may be attributable to localised resource constraints, others may be explained by the differential success of technological variants in ever-changing socioeconomic environments. Models derived from neo-Darwinian theory are constructed to identify lineages of technological knowledge from the bulk chemistries of ironworking residues, especially slag. Lineages are then explained in terms of evolutionary sorting processes. In order to minimise the effects of resource constraints, case studies are drawn from a single geographic region northwest Wales. Study sites include: Crawcwellt West (300 BC to AD 50), Bryn y Castell (150 BC to AD 250), and Llwyn Du (AD 1357 to AD 1450). While neither complete nor continuous in their temporal coverage, these sites offer a basis for examining evolutionary processes at different scales and in different socioeconomic settings. Bulk chemistries of slag, ore, and furnace materials are determined by polarising energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (P)ED-XRF. These data are supplemented with reflected-light microscopy of smelting slag. Both archaeological and experimentally derived materials were analyzed. The experimental data provides technological insights and a controlled means of evaluating analytical models. Historical data are used to model socioeconomic conditions. Results stress the importance of analyzing variation in early ironworking technology. Considerable variation is observed in slag chemistry between the Iron Age and medieval sites and between activity phases of the same site. The later phases of Llwyn Du contain coexisting chemical groups suggesting the coordinated use of multiple ironmaking recipes. Adaptive processes account for most of the observed patterns of variation building optimal recipes and strategies for fluctuating environments. Specific technological trajectories are historically contingent and geologically constrained.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available