Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The technological context of crucible steel production in northern Telangana, India
Author: Girbal, Brice Max
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 9980
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The innovation of crucible steel, a high-carbon, homogeneous, slag-free steel, is regarded as a milestone in the history of the development of ferrous metallurgy. Associated in popular literature with the making of swords, particularly in the Early Islamic period, crucible steel, also known as wootz, possesses exceptional properties of hardness and strength. While much is now understood about its metallurgical composition and structure, little is known of its origins and spread. Few archaeological sites have been uncovered and to date pre-industrial production of this alloy is only known from Central Asia and South Asia. Previous studies have largely focused on individual sites in isolation from wider regional patterns of ferrous metallurgy. As a refining process of iron, it is argued here that crucible steel has a symbiotic relationship with the smelting technologies that produced the raw material for refining. This thesis explores the value of assessing crucible steel production within its wider landscape, cultural and technological context by presenting the evidence from Northern Telangana, India. Historical sources and recent archaeological field surveys have shown that Telangana has a rich metallurgical past, including the manufacture of crucible steel. Despite this, little archaeological work has been conducted in the region to elucidate the nature, scale and diversity of the metallurgical technologies that underpinned its production. Following a major reconnaissance survey in 2010 by the Pioneering Metallurgy Project, the present study tackled the assessment of the large body of field data and the recording of the technological waste assemblage collected. By combining detailed morphological analyses of the collected materials and contextual information recorded during field survey, a better understanding of the techno-cultural role of crucible steel was gained. Technological variations were identified across the survey area and the inter-relationship between iron smelting and crucible steel was assessed. The study reveals that crucible steel was embedded within a long-established local and regional tradition of iron smelting and concludes that it represented the intensification of a pre-existing iron processing industry. The evidence points to a widespread crucible steel production industry with varying degrees of site specialisation, indicating that it was perhaps more common than the few isolated sites commonly referred to in the literature suggests. The comparison of the material evidence with other production sites in Central and South Asia also revealed close parallels to the latter suggesting that they belonged to the same regional manufacturing tradition.
Supervisor: Juleff, Gillian Sponsor: University of Exeter
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: India ; Telangana ; Iron ; Steel ; Crucible Steel ; Crucibles ; Archaeometallurgy ; Smelting