Multimetal smithing: An urban craft in rural settings?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Multimetal smithing should be defined as the use of more than one metal and/or different metalworking techniques within the
same crafts-milieu. This complex metalworking has long been linked to centrality, central places and urbanity in Scandinavia.
It has been extensively argued that fine casting and smithing, as well as manufacture utilizing precious metals was exclusively
undertaken within early urban settings or the “central places” pre-dating these. Furthermore, the presence of complex metal
craftsmanship has been used as a driving indicator of the political, social and economic superiority of certain sites, thereby
enhancing their identity as “centralities”.
Recent research has come to challenge the universality of this link between urbanity, centrality and complex metalworking
as sites in rural settings with evidence of multimetal smithing are being identified. This shows that the relationship between the
craft and centrality (urbanity) must be nuanced and that perhaps multimetal craftsmanship should be reconsidered as an urban
The thesis project “From Crucible and onto Anvil” started in 2015 and focuses on sites housing remains of multimetal
craftsmanship dating primarily from 500-1000 AD. Within the project a comprehensive survey of sites will be used to evaluate the
presence of multimetal craftsmanship in the landscape. Sites in selected target areas will also be subject to intra-site analysis
focusing on workshop organisation, production output, metalworking techniques and chronological variances.
A key aim in the project is to elucidate the conceptual aspects of complex metalworking. The term multimetality is used to
analytically frame all the societal and economic aspects of multimetal craftsmanship. Through this inclusive perspective both the
craftsmanship and the metalworkers behind it are positioned within the overall socioeconomic framework. The metalworkers,
their skills and competences as well as the products of their labour are viewed as dynamic actors in the landscape and on the
arenas of political economy of the Late Iron Age.
The survey has already revealed interesting aspects concerning multimetal smithing and urbanity. Although the multimetal
sites do cluster against areas of early urban development there are also other patterns emerging. Multimetal craftsmanship – both as practice and concept – was well represented in both rural peripheral settings and urban crafts-milieus. This means that the
role of multimetality as part of an “urban conceptual package” is crucial to investigate. Such an approach will have the dual ends
of properly understanding the craft and its societal implications, but also further the knowledge of the phenomenon of urbanity
as a whole. Was multimetal smithing part of an “urban package” that spread into the rural landscape? Did the multimetality differ
between urban and rural crafts-milieus? How does early urbanity relate to the chronology of multimetal craftsmanship?
This paper aims to counter these questions using examples from the survey of multimetal sites conducted within the thesis
project. A comparison between selected sites will be presented. The purpose of this is to evaluate the role of multimetality within
the “urban package” and discuss the role of complex metalworking in the establishment of urban arenas of interaction in Late
Iron Age Scandinavia.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology
  • History of Technology


  • Complex metalworking, Multimetality, Urban package
Translated title of the contributionMultimetal smithing - : An urban craft in rural settings?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sep 3
Publication categoryResearch
Event22nd Annual Meeting of EAA (European Archaeological Association) - Vilnius, Lithuania
Duration: 2016 Aug 312016 Sep 4


Conference22nd Annual Meeting of EAA (European Archaeological Association)
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Svensson, A. (Invited speaker)
2016 Sep 3

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

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