Archaeometallurgy Conference 2009ConferencePhoto
10th-12th November 2009
University of Bradford
Organised by Eleanor Blakelock


The conference was conceived as an opportunity to celebrate Gerry McDonnell's contribution to archaeometallurgy over the years, to wish him well for his future career and to give him the send-off from Bradford that he deserved. Current students presented research alongside former ones, but other presentations were provided by his many friends and colleagues from the field. Despite, or perhaps because, of its origins, the conference was not the slightest bit sombre but instead looked to the future, and provided an opportunity for a much larger HMS Research in Progress meeting than normal, encouraging contributions from around the globe.

The conference abstract book can be downloaded using this link.

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Conference Review

There was an impressive turnout for the Bradford conference with a packed auditorium and an equally full line up of speakers and poster presentations. The programme began with a presentation by Juilien Fang, who presented her findings on alloying and colour change. It was a particularly interesting subject being relevant to current research themes in material culture studies and one worthy of the prize for best Student Presentation. Jane Cowgill followed with a presentation on a particular type of slag known as “Iron Age Grey” that seems to be present only between 400-300 BC. It is thought to be so characteristic that it can be used to date a site. Despite its limited chronology, it is found at almost every British Iron Age site of every size, and despite its resemblance to them, it is never found with fuel ash slag.

Jim Brophy updated the audience on the Nidderdale Iron project, an impressive community based project which is going from strength to strength with an impressive range of sites now documented. Ed Kendall looked at usewear on Roman and Medieval knives. In common with Jui-Lien Fang’s paper this approach ties directly to current concerns such as artefact biographies in Material Culture Studies and demonstrates the health of metal-centred studies. Samantha Rubinson presented aspects of her recently completed PhD and looked at how the analysis of iron alloys could be used to reconstruct economic patterns in the medieval period. HMS Chairman, Tim Young, presented his work on Irish smithing slags questioning their size and formation whilst Susan La Niece reported her recent study of an English medieval jug that appears to have been the product of sideline activities in bell foundries. Rachel Hewitt and David Starley looked at compositional and typological variation in arrowheads used during the War of the Roses. They concluded that shape was more important than composition. Day One was concluded by Jane Wheeler who argued that the impact of medieval and early modern iron working on woodlands in North Yorkshire could be understood through pollen analysis, and that it was apparent that the area was carefully managed for production of hardwoods for charcoal.

Tim Taylor started the second day with a paper which looked at how prehistoric communities envalued metals and developed concepts of materiality when there was a conspicuous absence of metals. This was followed by Alan Doust who argued for a contextual approach to archaeometallurgical projects. Christina Clarke-Nielsen gave an impressively detailed account of raised vessel manufacture drawing largely on her experience as a metalworker. Giovanna Fregni looked at the effects of remelting on copper alloy composition noting the surprising stability of tin over remelting cycles. Burkart Ullrich presented his geophysical work on quantifying quantities of ferrous slags at archaeometallurgical sites. Roger Doonan presented a paper on the relationship between iron smithing and literacy in EIA Greece and noted that literacy and craftwork are both skills requiring dexterity and may be more related than is often thought. David Dungworth asked why archaeometallurgists have dismissed the idea of a bowl furnace for iron smelting and suggested that evolutionary accounts of technology may well be to blame. Peter Halkon updated the conference on his work in East Yorkshire looking at Iron Age production sites and associated paraphernalia and their relation to the continent. Janet Lang reported on her metallographic analyses on the iron rimmed chariot tyres in East Yorkshire burials with particular focus on one piece iron bands or tyers. Reference was made to rural American blacksmithing and descriptions of how to fit the metal tyer to a wooden rim.

The final day began with Maxime L'Héritier speaking about experiments using saiger prozess, a technique developed in 14th Century Europe for parting silver from copper. This was followed by Marie-Pierre Guirado also reporting experimental work in silver refining but this time by cupellation with particular attention given to the formation of litharge cakes. Peter Claughton continued the precious metal theme with a discussion of late Medieval lead/silver smelting slag and their apparent absence in the archaeological record. Litharge cakes received further attention from Justine Bayley, HMS Journal editor, presenting further work on their structure and composition. Patrice de Rijk detailed the ongoing work at the Stanley Grange Medieval Iron Project and the exploitation of ironstone in the 13th Century. Peter King spoke about the politics associated with the development of ironworks in the 1720's and the context of innovations. Eleanor Blakelock concentrated on Viking knife manufacture and how discrete fabrication traditions can be identified. Arne Esplund presented a total of two papers with his second on a two step iron process from Norway. The conference was concluded with Tim Young speaking on the formation of spherical hammerscale before making the closing remarks. All in all a great success and fitting honour to Gerry.

 

 

 

100th Anniversary of Stainless Steel
HMS Annual Conference

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19th-20th October 2013
Cutlers' Hall, Sheffield, S1 1HG
Organiser Eleanor Blakelock

 

 

Another anniversary to celebrate this year, On the 20th August 1913, local metallurgist Harry Brearley made his first arc furnace cast of stainless steel in Sheffield. Therefore to mark this occasion the 2013 Annual Meeting we will be holding a two day conference in the Cutlers' Hall in Sheffield. There will be presentations on the Saturday and field trip on the Sunday will be to Kelham Island, this includes an opportunity to see the River Don Engine in action.

Link to programme here

Abstract book here

 

Gallery

To follow

 

Review

The magnificent Cutlers' Hall in Sheffield was the setting for our HMS Annual Conference. I cannot think of a more fitting location to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Stainless Steel than in the city of its birth. The conference was a reflection of the history of HMS and the story of stainless steel, its conception, its development, through to modern day industrial practices and contemporary uses of this dynamic material.

The delegates included a diverse mix from the worlds of industry, academia and amateur. This made for a multi-faceted perspective which was highly informative and thought provoking. The day began with an overview of the history of the Historical Metallurgy Society, which was given by two of the journal's editors, Justine Bayley and David Crossley. This presentation included a diverse collection of images which provided a fascinating look at how the society has progressed over its fifty years. This presentation served as a fitting introduction to an exciting programme of talks to follow.

The day continued with a presentation by David Dulieu, the author of 'Stay Bright: A History of Stainless Steels in Britain'. This presentation provided a thorough introduction to Brearley and his discovery of stainless steel in 1913. The presentation provided an excellent overview of the early development of the stainless steel industry in Sheffield, as well as discussing some controversial moments within its history. This was followed by John Beeley of Outokumpu Stainless, who discussed the stainless steel industry 100 years on. He explained through various company mergers half a million tons of the metal is still being melted per annum.

After lunch we were invited to the Muniments Room. This gave us the opportunity to view a selection of historic knives, in particular the multi-bladed Norfolk Knife by Joseph Rodgers and Sons' Norfolk Street Works. This display consists of a comprehensive collection of 72 knives constructed in a Swiss army like form for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In addition, copies of '100 Years of Stainless Steel' were made available for purchase.Joan Unwin took us through the history of the knife drawer, including an overview of the progression of the domestic knife set and the changes that are evident in the design of blade and handle type. She discussed how the stamping out of cutlery rather than the traditional assembly method changed the industry in the 1960s. She highlighted the fact that the local industry changed irrevocably due to the importation of less expensive metal from developing countries. This was followed by an informative discussion by Peter King who gave an in-depth analysis of the statistics of the iron and steel industry 1860-1886.

After refreshments the afternoon session began with a presentation by Mick Steeper and Jonathan Aylen on rolling mills and their development from the steam-powered (the Rive Don engine being a prime example), to electricity and finally to the modern computer mechanised. The paper ended with an overview of today's metal-forming industry and the effects on Sheffield.

The day ended with a stimulating paper from Robert Booth, a sculptor in stainless steel and an avid performance caster. The paper displayed his work (http://www.robertbooth.co.uk) and showed the aesthetic beauty of the material rather than focusing purely on its functional use.

An interesting and informative weekend culminated in a field trip to the Kelham Museum on the banks of the River Don on Sunday morning. For the first time visitor this really is a thrilling experience. The visit was topped off by viewing the River Don Engine fully operational, complete with reverse gear change at full speed (this is worth the journey alone. On a final note, HMS would like to take this opportunity to thank all delegates for participating in what was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. In particular the society owes a great debt of gratitude to Ellie Blakelock for producing yet another first class meeting. A special thanks should also be noted to Joan Unwin for her contribution throughout the day.

Written by Vanessa Castagnino for The Crucible 84

 

 

Celebrating Street Furniture

12th-14th June 2015
Stratford upon Avon
Organised by Rachel Cubitt, Margaret Birch and Eddie Birch

 

Street furniture is a rich but much overlooked resource. The conference themes included manufacturers, methods and technology, but also went beyond metallurgy to discuss design choices, trade patterns and the social and economic considerations. Also discussed were the needs for recording and preservation of these slowly diminishing objects. A evening and day of presentations was followed by a tour of Stratford-upon-Avon which boasts a unique display of lamp posts from the UK and beyond.

The Glass-Bottomed Walking Bus Tour.

Following the formal sessions, the Sunday morning of the conference consisted of a walking tour of central Stratford-upon-Avon. This provided an opportunity to admire Stratford’s unique display of lamp posts from around the UK and beyond, and to spend time looking in detail at other examples of street furniture, but also provided an opportunity to network with other delegates.

The programme is available HERE

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Review

Coming soon


 

Research in Progress Meeting

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Thursday 9th November 2017
University of Liverpool
Dr Matthew Ponting

 

This meeting is aimed at a wide variety of contributors, from historical and archaeological metallurgists to excavators, historians and economists. If you are working, or have just finished working, on a project related to archaeological or historical metallurgy, we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in bringing together contract and public sector archaeologists with academic researchers, and in fostering links between the different disciplines studying metallurgy and related activities. Whether you are a student, a researcher, an interested non-specialist, or a professional excavator, we invite you to meet others working in this field and present your research to an interested community.

A prize is awarded for the best presentation by a student (or recent graduate within 12 months of graduation) at the meeting as chosen by those members of HMS Council present.

NEW! In addition to the prize, The Historical Metallurgy Society is offering a small number of travel bursaries for students presenting papers. If you are a student and would like to be considered please indicate with your submission.

 

For the call for papers or more information please visit the university event website

The provisional programme is now out and is available on the university website, or to download here

 Online bookings for this event are now open here, or you can download a form here

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Royalty, Religion and Rust!
HMS AGM Meeting

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4th-5th June 2011
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Organiser Eleanor Blakelock

This conference discussed metallurgy in relation to status and faith. The first day focused on how faith and religion affected metallurgy and metal artefacts, this was followed by an afternoon visit to nearby Rievaulx Abbey. The next day focused on status and metallurgy, again this was followed by a guided tour of Helmsley Castle.

Link to the programme is here and the abstract book is here

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Review

The meeting began with Niklas Schulze describing the casting of small copper alloy bells in pre-Hispanic Mexico. Copper alloy was valued more highly than gold by the Aztecs, and these small bells had an important religious role -they appear to have been ritually deposited in the temple in association with other offerings. The peak of bell production took place between the Triple Alliance of 1428 and the Spanish conquest of 1520. XRF analysis of 781 bells found considerable variation in the type of alloy. Arsenic, tin and lead were the most frequent elements, but the composition varied regionally, and with time; there was also some correspondence between the shape of the bells and the alloy used. Unfortunately there was no evidence for production – documentary evidence suggests that the bells were made in small portable furnaces on tripod legs.

Niklas' paper was followed by a fascinating study of Jesuit ferrous metallurgy in Venezuela by Ana Maria Navas. Missionaryled colonisation in the 18th century spread westwards along the Orinoco River, with iron objects the most significant trade items. Excavation at the Pueblo de los Espanoles del Villacoa provided considerable insight into the way the Jesuits introduced ironmaking technology to the indigenous population. Locally - sourced iron was smelted in a bloomery, and then worked in a blacksmith's forge. European and African experts were brought in to train the indigenous people, who themselves much preferred blacksmithing to other tasks. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in the 1780s, knowledge of smelting was lost, and ironworking was subsequently restricted to reworking and repair of existing artefacts.

Tim Youngthen transported delegates across the Atlantic and provided a synthesis of several projects, exploring the role of the church in the development of ironmaking during the early Christian period. The church was a focus for economic activity, it was a "sponsor" of metalworking, and was also a facilitator of technology transfer between areas. There seemed to be an association with the size of smithing cakes and the size of bells being made at some sites with considerable variation and specialization. Smithing changed significantly between the 6th and 9th centuries, and Tim suggested that links with the Merovingian kingdoms were significant in the exchange of culture and technology. Connections between church and ironworking were also noted in a later periods.

Continuing the ecclesiastic theme, Paul Rondelez described his excavations at a Cistercian ironworking site. At Aghmanister (County Cork), an abbey of c.1172 was replaced by an entirely new monastery in c.1278. The earlier church was re-used for the manufacture of iron – finds included smithing hearth cakes, tuyeres and various iron objects, as well as smithing residues. This activity seemed to have peaked during the late 13th and 14th centuries. Amy Bunce and Barry Cosham looked at iron-working in Tulsk (County Roscommom). The research project had identified that a prehistoric ringfort was later occupied by the fortified tower house of the O'Conor Roe family; this strategically-located site was captured by the English in 1593 and rebuilt by Sir Richard Bingham. Excavations recovered smithing debris, most of which was associated with the late 16th and early 17th century occupation.

There were two further ferrous papers. Roy Andrews looked at ironworking in medieval castles in Yorkshire, noting how earlier excavations and analysis had largely overlooked the often quite substantial evidence for ironworking. At Knaresborough, for example, 107,000 crossbow bolts were made in three years during the 13th century; excavations revealed the remains of 14 smithing hearths. At Pontefract, despite there having been no excavations within the castle walls, 18kg of smithing hearth bottoms and associated debris had been recovered. There is clearly considerable potential for further research.

Peter Halkon began his paper on iron, myth and magic by singing a folk song which encapsulated several long - standing themes of transformation and ritual. He then explored a range of iron related myths (including Wayland, Sigurd and Vulcan) before considering the particular landscape of east Yorkshire in the late Iron Age and Roman periods.

Moving away from iron, Chris Witney-Lagan presented very interesting piece of research on pewter dress accessories from the 10th century onwards. There was no documentary evidence for pewter production between c.900-1200, but the archaeological collection of the Museum of London had the potential to provide important evidence. Pewter may have been used to imitate silver, but it became an increasingly high-status material in its own right, with ecclesiastical use from the 12th century. Over 70% of the 223 objects Chris had examined were brooches, with a bewildering array of styles which provided a great deal of information on the status, connections and affiliations of the wearer. XRF analysis suggested no particular pattern in the composition of alloys, demonstrating the need for Guild control which was eventually imposed in the 14th century. Finally, Steve Sherlock outlined the excavation of an unusually rich Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Street House (Yorkshire). The "bed burial" in Grave 42 was the most northerly in the country, suggesting royal connections with the south-east. Jewellery included a pendant incorporating Iron Age gold coins, and another piece which reused the gold from Merovingian coins. Some pieces were extremely well made and had clearly been handed down over several generations as shown by evidence of repair work.

After the paper presentations delegates were treated to a series of field trips led by Gerry McDonell to various medieval and post-medieval ironworking sites. These included Rievaulx Abbey (where the post-medieval blast furnace made good use of former monastic buildings) and sites of earlier monastic iron-working at Bilsdale including a water-powered site which created considerable discussion in the field. Gerry also led a trip round Helmsley Castle. Many thanks to Eleanor Blakelock and Gerry McDonnell for organising such an excellent meeting which introduced a number of ifferent themes, and struck a good balance between lectures and field visits.

 Written by Paul Belford for the HMS Newsletter 78

 

50th Anniversary Conference

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14th-16th June 2013

Friends House, London

Organised by

Eleanor Blakelock

 

This international academic conference was the culmination of a series of events marking the 50th Anniversary of the Historical Metallurgy Society and provided a high-level 'state of the art' profile of current and future developments in the various disciplines which HMS represents.

The four themes of this meeting are:
• Origins of metallurgy. Chairs Paul Craddock & Thilo Rehren.
• Metallurgy of the Northern Continents. Chairs David Bourgarit & Justine Bayley.
• Archaeometallurgy of the Southern Continents. Chairs Marcos Martinón-Torres & Vincent Serneels.
• The future of historical and archaeological metallurgy. Chairs David Killick & David Dungworth.

The conference was attended by over 120 people, from a range of backgrounds and countries. The event included a wine reception sponsored by the Historical Metallurgy Society, the HMS AGM and also a conference dinner. There were also visits behind the scenes of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the John Percy collection, organised by Matt Phelps.

Link to programme is HERE and the abstract book is available HERE

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Review

One could summarise the last HMS 50th Anniversary Conference as a sort of materialisation of the HMS logo: a true melting pot of specialists from different institutions and disciplines, working on different areas, in different periods, with different materials but all joined by a common aim: generating a better understanding of past societies through the study of one of their essential productions: metallurgy. A second shared target was creating and consolidating research networks, tools and environments for the exchange and discussion of this knowledge. This Conference has shown that, after 50 years, HMS is deservedly recognised as one of these essential networks.

The conference was held in central London and exceptionally well organised by Eleanor Blakelock. It combined talks and discussion with more social and informal interaction: tea and lunch breaks, a wine reception at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, a social dinner to which all the attendants were invited, or the trips to the Science Museum Blyth House Store or the Victoria and Albert Museum, which turned out to be excellent atmospheres for relaxed discussion.

Thirty-eight papers and 18 posters were presented by researchers from all over the world including Europe, Israel, USA, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Australia and Japan, with an audience of over 100 people. At least 12% of the contributions were the result of international cooperative teams, which illustrates how current research networks are broadening at a transnational level to address research questions of common interest. It is also worth mentioning that a significant proportion were women (30% of oral presentations and 50% of posters) and young researchers. Together with some of the most widely known archaeometallurgists, a new generation of young researchers had the opportunity to present and discuss some of the most recent projects and latest trends.

All contributions were structured into four main themes: Origins of Metallurgy chaired by Paul Craddock and Thilo Rehren; The Southern Continents chaired by Vincent Serneels and Marcos Martinón-Torres; The Northern Continents chaired by David Bourgarit and Justine Bayley; and Future of Historical and Archaeological Metallurgy chaired by David Dungworth. The program itself showed the broad scope of the HMS membership: from Prehistory to modern times, from copper to gold and spanning the world.

On the first day, ten papers were presented on the origins of metallurgy. Some of them were examples of what P. Craddock denied in his opening talk as "the pendulous character of metallurgical research." Old discussions on the independent invention of metallurgy or its diffusion in Eurasia are back in the agenda through new and stimulating evidence from Eastern Europe (M. Radivojević) or South East Asia (O. Pryce). Local evidence of some of the earliest metallurgy in Western Europe was also brilliantly presented in Italy by provenance studies through lead isotope analysis (G. Artioli and his team); in France by the technological characterisation of the earliest metallurgical remains at the mining district of Cabrières-Péret (S. Rovira, P. Ambert and his team); or in Britain by the systematic radiocarbon dating of prehistoric mining works (S. Timberlake et al.).

Another swing of the pendulum brought new and inspiring insights into an old discussion regarding the latest evidence on the intentional production of arsenical copper in Chalcolithic Turkey (L. Bosher et al.). However, not all the contributions had a technological focus: A. Feuerbach discussed the origins of metallurgy as part of specific adaptive social strategies; and L. Nigro the role of early metallurgy and the emergence of the urban sites in Early Levant. Finally, J. Palermo gave a historiographic perspective on the origins of Iron.

The session on Southern Continents was an important step forward in beginning to redress a Eurocentric bias that persists in many conferences organised by European institutions. In this session, however, we could see some of the metallurgical 'restrictions' that Th. Rehren highlighted in his closing talk: two out of the three papers on African metallurgy were devoted to iron production (E. Ch. Lyaya; V. Serneels) with the only exception of one on trans-Saharian copper trade (L. Garenne-Marot and B. Mille). Four out of the five papers on South American metallurgy concentrated on noble metals, although presenting different approaches: C.I. Angiorama and M. Florencia Becerra presented robust evidence of silver extractive activities, while C. Gutiérrez Neira et al., and M. Martinón-Torres and A. Uribe, presented non-invasive studies of gold objects cast by the lost-wax technique and convincingly stressed the high importance of their social contexts and roles. On the other hand, N. Bustamante and J. Escobar tried to infer pre-hispanic technological productions by experimental sintering of gold and platinum. Regarding copper, B. Mille and his team presented a comparative study on the organization of copper production between the Atacama Desert and France, showing that small and large scales of production are not necessarily two steps of a linear trajectory, and that other social and economic aspects must be incorporated in order to correctly assess the metallurgical production in its context.

The twelve papers on northern continents encompassed studies on gold and silver, copper-based metallurgy and iron. Noble metals were presented in the studies of three hoards (Mildenhall, Derrynalan and Staffordshire) from the UK (J. Lang and E. Blakelock et al); an original technological approach was proposed by S. Liu and Th. Rehren in China, where archaeometallurgical studies are mainly focused on bronze production and gold or silver are rarely considered. Another innovative technology was presented by M. Renzi et al. in Iberia, who proposed a method of silver production by de-silvering copper ores that was hitherto unreported for the Early Iron Age. A broader organisational model of silver production in this period was presented by M. Murillo-Barroso, based on lead isotope analyses.

Copper-based metallurgy was focused in the Levant with two approaches to copper trade networks by the elemental and isotopic composition of ingots (N. Yahalom-Mack et al.) or the manufacturing techniques of objects (C. Clarke). Tin was brought into the picture by J.-M. Welter, who presented a remarkable study on the physical and mechanical properties of tin bronzes. And inally, iron technology was centered on the industrial production of iron and steel from the 17th century up to present times (H.J. McQueen and L. McNally; J. Greenwood; K.E. Morgan; T. Smith).

The last theme, Future of Historical and Archaeological Metallurgy was mostly focused on iron production. A. Dolini opened the session with a clarifying talk on the earliest copper metallurgy in Italy, and stressed the main goals and trends for the future research in relation to the state of the art. A critical and innovative topic – how to provenance iron objects – was addressed by two of the presentations (M. Brauns et al. and P. Dillmann et al.). T. Young presented a synthetic paper on the development of bloomery furnaces in Britain and Ireland.

Closing speeches were presented by Th. Rehren and P. Belford who gave illustrative clues on the future of archaeometallurgy and historical metallurgy research.

It has been a great pleasure to attend this inspiring and well-organised conference. Even though I have only been able to report my personal highlights, collectively all the papers and posters showed the strength of metallurgical research internationally, using a variety of methodological approaches and the latest analytical techniques where necessary. I found it very gratifying to observe that, by and large, technological aspects are not the ultimate object of study and the social role and impact of metallurgy (in past or present societies) was at the core of most of these technological studies. The presence of academics, museum curators, students, metallurgists or archaeologists diversified the discussion and showed that, on its 50th birthday, HMS continues to be an extremely fertile crossroads of different metallurgical grounds.

Review written by Mercedes Murillo-Barroso for The Crucible 83

V&A handling session

O n Thursday, the handling sessions took place in the offices of the Metalwork, Silver and Jewellery Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. A variety of objects displayed on a large table were waiting for us: a late medieval steel helmet; an intricately decorated 17th century sword with a blade from Toledo; a range of candle holders made of different metals; and an 18th century 5.5kg solid silver ewer; as well as other beautifully made and intricate objects.

We were attended by Angus Patterson, armour and arms specialist, and Kristen Kennedy, silver specialist, who delighted us not just with the story behind the different artefacts (such as the the silver chest thought to be Spanish that was in fact Bolivian), but also with explanations of the different metals and alloys used; techniques of manufacture (e.g acid etching, inlaying, examples of early electroplating) and their change over time and observations about details of the decoration. After the explications, we had an hour to handle the artefacts and enjoy an informal talk.

Among all the artefacts, my favourite was an 18th century hand gun, steel barrelled with wood and silver fittings; its details were simply fantastic: small dogs and hunters with their hats and riles made of silver displayed symmetrically around the body of the weapon. All the mechanical pieces were not just perfect, but also beautiful with engravings of waves, plants and creature's faces. Wood and metal parts it perfectly, showing the expertise and art of two crafts of the period: carpenters and metalworkers.

The artefacts were stunning and it was privilege to be able to handle such wonderful objects.

Tour review written by Teresa Plaze for The Crucible 83

Percy collection tour

John Percy is rightly famous among metallurgists for his pioneering work on 19th century metallurgy, which he published in his Treatise on Metallurgy, and so the opportunity to see his metallurgical collection would feel a real privilege to any self-respecting HMS member!

The collection is housed in the impressive surroundings of the Science Museum Stores at Blythe House and we were shown around by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Susan Mossman, aided by Rebecca Stores. The room itself was an Aladdin's cave of shelves stacked with loose or jarred samples with hand written labels. Percy was a prolific collector, and though he is famous for his work on metallurgy he collected a vast diversity of over 4000 objects. These included a large collection of coal from seams around the UK, large chunks of glass and assorted minerals from across Europe. His slag collection contained contemporary samples from blast furnaces from diverse locations around the world, such as Wales, the USA, Russia, and even 200 year old examples of bloomery slags from Sweden. It seems that the collection of historical slags for analysis is nothing new!

Some of the most interesting artefacts had been especially selected by Susan Mossman for us to view. These included a large bar of steel made in the Bessemer-Mushet process which had undergone shear strength testing. From the separate Park Collection, was a bar of some of the earliest made aluminium created by Faraday in the early 19th century. However, some of the most surprising objects were much older. There was a collection of ancient metal artefacts that had been sent to Percy for analysis; this included samples cut from a silver cup from excavations at Nineveh and a large sample taken from a bronze sword from Mycenaean Greece. This really shows that Percy was not just a metallurgist, but also one of the early pioneers of archaeometallurgy.

Percy collected materials from one of the most exciting periods of metallurgy and the benefits of this collection is in its breadth, size and completeness. This material has much to teach us, especially if coupled with the use of new, modern scientific techniques. Having been comprehensively catalogued, future research on this collection is an exciting prospect. This collection is probably the best of its sort in the world and the visit was a very rewarding experience.

Tour reviews written by Matt Phelps for The Crucible 83

 

Research in Progress Meeting

 

 

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Friday 13th November 2015

Newton Room, Hamilton Centre,
Brunel University.

Organised by Lorna Anguilano

 

This meeting is aimed at a wide variety of contributors, from historical and archaeological metallurgists to excavators, historians and economists. If you are working, or have just finished working, on a project related to archaeological or historical metallurgy, we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in bringing together contract and public sector archaeologists with academic researchers, and in fostering links between the different disciplines studying metallurgy and related activities. Whether you are a student, a researcher, an interested non-specialist, or a professional excavator, we invite you to meet others working in this field and present your research to an interested community.

The HMS prize is awarded for the best presentation by a student at the meeting was awarded to William Hawkes for his presentation 'Polishing our performance and winning silver'.

Link to programme is available HERE and the abstract book is HERE.

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Review

Coming soon

 

 

Research in Progress Meeting

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Tuesday 29th November 2016
University of Birmingham
Eleanor Blakelock

 

This meeting is aimed at a wide variety of contributors, from historical and archaeological metallurgists to excavators, historians and economists. If you are working, or have just finished working, on a project related to archaeological or historical metallurgy, we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in bringing together contract and public sector archaeologists with academic researchers, and in fostering links between the different disciplines studying metallurgy and related activities. Whether you are a student, a researcher, an interested non-specialist, or a professional excavator, we invite you to meet others working in this field and present your research to an interested community.

A prize is awarded for the best presentation by a student (or recent graduate within 12 months of graduation) at the meeting as chosen by those members of HMS Council present.

NEW! In addition to the prize, The Historical Metallurgy Society is offering a small number of travel bursaries for students presenting papers. If you are a student and would like to be considered please indicate with your submission.

The event will be held in room GC 17 in Metallurgy and Materials Building. This is building G6 on the University campus map, the event is taking place in C Block. A link to the map can be found here.

Link to provisional programme is available here

Online booking for this event is now closed, as there are limited places available. If you wish to attend please contact me using the email below to ensure there is a seat available.

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Metals used in Personal Adornment

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31st May-1st June 2014
Birmingham
Organised by Eleanor Blakelock

 

For many centuries metal, especially precious metals, has been the dominate material used in the construction of jewellery and other items of personal adornment. The basic form of personal adornment varies over time, location and culture. This influences not only the style of the pieces but also impacts the method of manufacture. This conference therefore provided an opportunity examine the metals used and the metalworking techniques carried out to produce these pieces.

As part of the conference there will be a tour of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, and a behind the scenes tour of the Birmingham Museum conservation department where they are working on the Staffordshire Hoard.

The conference abstract book can be downloaded using this link and the programme is available HERE.

 

Photo gallery

 

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HMS Conference - Metallurgy in warfare: A spur to innovation and development

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3rd-5th October 2014
Salisbury
Organised by Tom Birch and Eddie Birch

 

The scope of this HMS autumn conference was to encompass the various roles that metals have taken in warfare through the ages. The main themes were: the development of metallurgy arising from military needs, the developments in military organising arising from metallurgical innovation, and the developments in metal and metal artefact production arising from the urgencies of war. After an evening and a day of talks there were trips to two museums; the Museum of Army Flying and the Tank Museum at Bovington

The programme is available HERE and the abstract book is HERE.

Photo Gallery

 

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Review

This year's Annual Conference was held in the historic city of Salisbury. The theme was Metallurgy in Warfare, a fascinating topic but with an additional poignancy on this, the centenary year of the World War I. Metallurgy has always been at the vanguard of advances in warfare and this was aptly demonstrated by the extremely diverse topics on offer.

Friday evening started with a session on Ancient warfare and hand-to-hand combat. Andrea Dolfini's "Bronze Age combat: An experimental approach," possibly one of the most interesting sounding research topics out there, compared use-marks and damage recorded during simulated combat using traditionally made Bronze Age weapons, to archaeological examples. They matched bent swords from flat of the blade parrying to ancient weapons, and noted the surprising efficacy of beaten bronze shields.

Following the Bronze Age theme, Barry Molloy's "Avant garde? A techno-social perspective on the birth of the sword in the Bronze Age" (read by Tom Birch) dealt with the development of sword technology highlighting the need for very highly skilled casting; single pours, and the need to reduce casting errors, particularly at the junction between blade and handle to stop breakage. Off topic, but brilliant none-the-less, "Två 1800-talsbruk," a 1920's film of a 19th century charcoal blast and refinery furnace in Sweden recording the process from ore to finished bar iron, loaned by the Swedish Archive Centre and commentary by Tim Smith. This film was a remarkable historical record encapsulating not only the metallurgical process but a long lost way of life. Of interested was the use of horse drawn sledges for charcoal alongside trains for the ore; hand charging the blast furnace; operation of a Lancashire hearth; water driven tilt hammers for billet and bar production; protective clothing of no more than a leather apron and wooden clogs. The final paper of the day, David Edge's 'Damascus' watered steel: pretty lethal... or just pretty?' discussed modern methods in the identification of damascus steels, detailed study of objects from the Wallace Collection showed that Damascus steel was used only for bits of the object that could be seen with little attempt to make use of its superior material properties.

Saturday morning began with a session on Firearms and Artillery, Chris McKay explained the process of gun casting in 18th century Woolwich, identifying little known techniques, as illustrated in "The Art of Gunfounding" by Carel de Beer. This was followed by Jean-Marie Welter "The Keller brothers; gun casters to Louis XIV" who commented on the many difficulties of producing cannons with reproducible compositions and microstructures despite the technological advancement in casting, this explained the relatively high failure rates in cannons. Kay Smith's paper "Breaking the mould" discussed the drivers of cannon innovation; the change from casting breach up to muzzle up around the late 16th century in an aim to reduce casting defects and stop failure in the breach area during use; and how changes to gun powder production and cannonballs affected cannon design.

The second session, Technology, Organisation and Production began with a very interesting talk by Janice Li on "Metallurgy and China's First Empire: Bronze weapons for the Qin Terracotta Army." This paper used a combination of SEM for compositional and visual analysis, as well as metric analysis, to understand the production of the thousands of bronze objects used for the warriors, concluding that completed objects were made at individual workshops using standardised components and not by assembly line methods. Also recognised were hand and rotary polishing marks. A great example of how scientific methods can inform on past technologies and organisational choices. The second paper, "Persian crucible steel production: Chāhak tradition," Rahil Alipour combined medieval manuscripts and compositional analysis of crucibles to investigate the processes of crucible steel production in medieval period Persia, sharing new insights into this important industry. This session ended with Tom Birch "Supplying the Havor lance: towards standardised war gear in Iron Age Scandinavia".

The research centred around the astounding survival of thousands of iron weapons from lake depositions in southern Scandinavia, using metric and morphometric analysis of over 120 lances coupled with compositional analysis, a picture was presented of a highly standardised lance design with centrally controlled production that used iron from across Scandinavia.

Modern Warfare was the topic of the final session, beginning with Margaret Birch's presentation of the WWI war work of Major General William Huskisson as the Assistant Inspector of Steel, Bombs and Mines division, giving an insight into the organisation of war production. The day ended with an enjoyable presentation by Eddie Birch, "Liberty Ships: winning the logistics war," the design was based on the British designed Empire Ships; simple, versatile, modular and of a completely welded construction. While slow, they were quick to build, reliable and with 2700 built in 5 years, they made a significant contribution to the war effort, many of which continued to have long post-war lives owing to their versatility.

The conference ended with an enjoyable conference dinner at the Red Lion, and on the Sunday trips were organised to two local museums; the first was to The Museum of Army Flying which preserves a unique collection of military aviation history including historic fixed wing and rotary wing aircrafts. The second to the The Tank Museum at Bovington, the birth place of the tank in World War One, 6 halls exhibited an impressive collection of 300 vehicles which covered all major wars of the 20th century, including the first tank ever made, a feared German Tiger, and the modern Challenger 2.

Overall this was an informative and much enjoyed conference, with possibly one of the widest ranges of topics seen at a HMS conference, from Bronze Age swords and Iron Age lances, to cannons and WWII ships. This conference showed how archaeo-metallurgical techniques coupled with historical and archaeological approaches continue to enlighten us on past metallurgy, and how innovation in metal usage and production shaped the world we live in.

This review was written by Matt Phelps and Rahil Alipour for The Crucible 87.

 

 

 

Anniversary of Cyfarthfa Ironworks

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17th-19th June 2016
Merthyr Tydfil
Tim Young

 

 This meeting celebrates two separate anniversaries

  • 250th anniversary of the construction of Cyfarthfa Ironworks (1765-7)

  • 225th anniversary of the first successful commercial implementation of the puddling process (1791)

Based in the Merthyr Tydfil area, this conference will discuss a range of related toptics including the story of puddling (technology, economics, social history, engineering implications, international adoption), as well as the wider story of iron conversion technology and the broader development, social history and context of the iron industry in Merthyr Tydfil and South Wales from 1750 to 1950. There will also be discussion of the development of Cyfarthfa Ironworks and its people (Bacon, the Homfrays, the Crawshays, their engineers and partners).

On Friday before the conference starts there is a rare opportunity to visit Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine (book early as numbers limited). On Sunday there will be another excursion through the sites of the Taff Valley in Merthyr, excursion on foot (approx 7km) but transfer between many of the sites may be made by car. Sites to be visited include:

  • Merthyr (Penydarren) Tramroad tunnel,
  • Ynysfach Ironworks,
  • Chapel Row,
  • Cyfarthfa Ironworks

More information about the anniversaries, and ironworks and the call for papers is available here.

The provisional programme is here and details of the presentations here.

Link to booking form is here (this also includes travel and accommodation information). Online bookings are now open, if you are attending the AGM this is free but if you would like lunch get in touch with Tim Young.

Accommodation is not provided by the society and it is suggested that delegates book into the Premier Inn adjacent to the conference venue, as early as possible to receive cheaper prices.

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.