Introduction to Archaeology
Metals represent an important artifact category at many archaeological
sites. Metal artifacts give us insights into the metalurgical technologies
employed, the organization of labor, the system of extraction and processing
of these metals, and the technologies utilized for working other materials
(during which metal tools were used). View this animation
before examining the remainder of the lab page.
An early task archaeologists are asked to perform is the identification
of the metal, the process by which the object is produced and the utility
of the object. The following section is intended to detail identification.
Identify the following metals.
Go to the
Show box of objects: iron Copper silver gold tin lead brass bronze
Methods of Production
Wrought Iron: Hot hammered into form. No tempering or casting. Is more
brittle than cast objects.
Casting: The metal is transformed into a molten state and then cast in
Lost Wax Casting:
View the animation or the following link for a discussion of the lost wax
Cold Hammering: The native, pure metal is hammered into shape without heating
Evidence for the use of alloys
Smelting and Mining
Access to metals varies. Early worked materials were often native metals
(pure forms of the metal which could be found in nature). Over time it
became necessary to extract metals for certain mineral compounds. The method
is known as smelting, in which metalic ores are cooked in a reducing atmosphere.
Whereas coppers can be transformed into its liquid form relatively easily,
early iron could not.
Evidence of a spongy bloom: (early Iron in impure form)
Slag (the byproduct of iron smelting)
Potential objects suggesting mining (lamps)
Do you gain any insights into the nature of the society by determining
the nature of the productive process?
Pictures of Ancient Metal
ancient metals page.
Some Interesting Metalurgical Sites to Visit
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