Day 4 (16/09/04)

Practical Archaeology Course 2004: Day 4

16th September

Improving the light conditions while photographing a feature.Improving the light conditions while photographing a feature.Excavation in trenches one and two continued apace today, whilst next door to the finds processing room, Jake Keen fired up his iron smelting furnace to demonstrate the difficult process of producing iron from iron ore.

This was an amazing experience – the sheer magic of making shiny metal from an unpromising piece of rock impressed us all – almost as much as it must have astonished our ancestors in the Iron Age.
 
Using the BellowsUsing the BellowsJake started work early in the morning, crushing huge chunks of orange coloured rock, brought from Hengistbury Head, on his ironstone anvil. The iron ore was loaded into the furnace at the rate of 10 kilos of ore to 20 kilos of charcoal, and topped up at about 20-minute intervals.
 
It was hard work: Students took turns to load the furnace, and to pump the bellows, which needed constant attention throughout the day to keep the fire up to temperature.
 
feeding the furnace: Jake feeding the furnace – note the tool he uses for the jobfeeding the furnace: Jake feeding the furnace – note the tool he uses for the jobJake kept an eagle eye on the flame burning at the top of the furnace, the colour giving a ready check to the temperature inside.
 
By 15:00 hours the base was ready to open and the slag could be removed. Over half a kilo of iron was pulled out in two irregular lumps. Jake cut them open with a disc cutter and there was the shiny metal inside, the culmination of an informative and impressive demonstration. Everyone agreed that the ironworkers of the Iron Age would have been highly respected and even possibly feared for their skill.
 
The process explainedThe process explainedThe end product of a day's labours - ironThe end product of a day's labours - iron