*A Study in Archaeo-Metalsmithing*

*Smelting Page*

This study originally began with a challenge to recreate a specific seax in the British Museum's collection:

The Seax of Beagnoth

The seax ( also known as the sax or scramasax, ) is a single edged blade in use throughout Northern Europe roughly corresponding to the Migration Era and entering into the Viking Age. The size ranges from several inches to full-length swords but is most commonly a long fighting / utility knife, similar in size and function to the American Bowie. It is for this knife that the Saxons are named, and by extension the Anglo-Saxons; a testament to its historical prevalence.

I have since broadened my concerns- I now mean to make a generalized study of the metallurgy inherent to the blades of the period. I will explore the construction of the Migration / Viking Age blade from the smelting process to its decoration, use and capabilities. I will create blades with historically accurate alloy content, physical construction and heat treatment. I will test them to see what various historical methods of construction and heat-treatment produce.

Project Outline

I. Academic / Historical research

A. Survey of available blades.

- General history including time frame & geography.
- Alloy contents.
- Types of construction.
- Types of heat-treatment.
- Types of adornment.

B. Survey of Processes involved in creating a period blade.

- Methods of obtaining / smelting ore.
- Methods of construction.
- Methods of heat-treatment.
- Methods of adorment.

II. Experiments & Exploration.

- Construct a period smelter & refine some typical alloys.
- Explore some typical constructions
- Explore typical heat-treatments.
- Explore typical adornments.
- Explore capabilities & methods of use.

Academic / Historical Research

Resources and Intended Bibliography

Viking Sword.com
Many good articles on the history of the sword with several good sections on seaxes.

Regia's Ironworking Page
Regia's informative page on Anglo-Saxon smelting & smithing.

Regia's Seax Page
Regia's page on Seaxes.

a href="http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/bog_iron.htm" target="_blank">Hurstwick's Iron Page
Hurstwick's iron page. Good description of bog iron.

University of Bradford.
Further info from University of Bradford with pictures of a very period smelter.

U. of Bradford.
The University of Bradford's excellent photo-essay on slightly later period smelt.

U. of Bradford
Evidence of consistent, high quality Saxon Steel production.

Modern Art-Smelters Lee Sauder and Skip Williams
Great modern studio-smelting resource.

Surveys, excavations and experiments in Tranemo, Sweden.
Probably very close to the smelter I will make...

Altantia's Metalsmithing Links
A great resource of links relating to historical metalsmithing.

Slag and Metallurgy for Historical Archaeologists.
VERY good archaeometallurgical bibliography.


Rolando, Victor, 200 Years of Soot and Sweat. Vermont Archaeological Society, 1992.
ISBN 0-9628944-0-0
A complete study of Vermont's Iron & charcoal industries, including maps of ore-fields.

HR Ellis Davidson. The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England

Richard F Burton, The Book of the Sword. Dover Publications, NY, 1987 (Orig Chatto & Windus, London, 1884)
ISBN 0486254348

Ewartt Oakshott, The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry.

Ewart Oakeshott, Records of the Medieval Sword. Boydell, Woodbridge, 1991. ISBN 0851155391 hbk 0851155669 pbk

Richard Underwood, Anglo-Saxon Weapons & Warfare. Tempus, Stroud, 1999. ISBN 0752414127

Lang, Janet and Ager, Barry. Swords of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Periods in the British Museum: A Radiographic study.
in "Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England", S.C. Hawkes (ed.), Oxbow books: Oxford England, 1989

Anstee, J.W. and Biek, L. A Study in Pattern Welding in "Medieval Archaeology". 5:71-93, 1961

Verhoeven, John and Clark, Howard. Carbon Diffusion between the Layers in Modern Pattern-Welded Blades, "Materials Characterization".
Volume 41, Issue 5, November 1998, pg 183-191

Agricola, Georgius. De Re Metallica. Dover Publications, 1950.

Theophilus. On Divers Arts. Dover Publications, 1979.

Mircea Eliade. The Forge and The Crucible (ISBN 0-226-20390-5)

F.W. Robbins, The Smith: Traditions and Lore of an Ancient Craft (no ISBN)