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Title: An archaeometallurgical study of early medieval iron technology : an examination of the quality and use of iron alloys in iron artefacts from early medieval Britain
Author: Rubinson, Samantha Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2699 3629
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2010
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This project presents a study of iron technology in Early Medieval (fifth to eleventh centuries AD) Britain through the examination of iron found in settlement contexts. This is a period characterized by significant cultural, political and social changes. The effect of these changes on iron technology has never been investigated on a large scale. Previous studies on iron focused either on individual sites or on single artefact types, and did not provide any clear multi-region interpretive framework. A longstanding problem has been in identifying the extent of usage of a key alloy: phosphoric iron. This research project examined iron assemblages from eight settlement sites of varying size, culture, economic and social status from across Britain. From each settlement a mixed assemblage of iron artefacts was sampled, including edged tools, items of personal adornment, construction materials, and craft tools. Analysis was by traditional archaeometallurgical techniques alongside SEM-EDS elemental analysis. Alloy usage, specifically relating to phosphoric iron, was examined and the manufacturing techniques assessed. It was shown that elemental analysis is the only reliable method to determine the presence of phosphorus in iron and demonstrated that the traditional phosphoric indicators as observed during optical microscopy are insufficient. Results were subjected to a series of comparisons based on settlement size, the inferred social status, and cultural affinities. The results demonstrate the high technological level of iron artefact production across the country. All areas had access to the full range of iron alloys and employed a highly developed range of smithing techniques. Phosphoric iron was a prevalent alloy in this period. Based on these results, a model of the Early Medieval iron industry is generated, suggesting a vibrant economy in which both local and traded irons were significant.
Supervisor: Taylor, Tim ; McDonnell, Gerry Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Iron ; Technology ; Early Medieval ; Metallography ; Smithing ; Alloys ; Phosphorus ; Manufacture ; Status ; Metallurgy ; Phosphoric iron