Tracing Multimetal Craftsmanship through Metallurgical debris: Open air workshops and multimetality in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Metallurgical debris is by far the most informative source material for studying the metal craftsmanship of the past. In comparison to the finished objects, which has attracted far more attention in archaeological research, debris material are more or less confined to the original workshop sites and hence provide direct evidence as to production volume and quality, site organization, artisanal skill and operational sequences within the various crafts.
On many sites throughout the “Metal Ages” evidence of both iron smithing and the use of non-ferrous metals can be found. Traditionally, a clear division between these types of crafts has been enforced in site interpretation, separating sites into ferrous versus non-ferrous workshop sites chronologically or spatially. However, the presence of, for instance, smithing slag cakes with droplets of Cu-alloy within their matrix as well as casting debris of both metals and ceramic materials in forges and smithing hearths challenges this strict division.
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 based first and foremost on the metallurgical debris documented on or collected from them. Sites in selected target areas will be subject to intra-site analysis of their metallurgical remains focusing on workshop organisation, the array of metalworking techniques utilized and the chronological variances of multimetal craftsmanship.
A primary 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 cosmological aspects of metal craftsmanship. Through this inclusive perspective both the metal 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.
This paper aims to present a few examples of the surveyed multimetal sites, discuss workshop reconstruction through metallurgical debris and present preliminary interpretations of the sites internal organisation and placement within the cultural landscape. Many of the sites surveyed so far are interpreted as open air workshops with a relatively long continuity ranging several generations of metalworkers. How is this to be interpreted? Where the multimetal craftsmanship undertaken of temporary character? And if so, why did the metalworkers continue to use the same workshop site for generations?
The concept of multimetality and the possibilities to capture this elusive, yet crucial, element of multimetality and the possibilities to capture this elusive, yet crucial, element of metal craftsmanship through the study of metallurgical debris will also be discussed in the paper. The surveyed sites and the reconstruction of their internal workshop organisation will serves as examples of how multimetality was manifested on the sites and in the landscape.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology
  • History of Technology


  • Metallurgical debris, Multimetal craftsmanship, Multimetality
Translated title of the contributionTracing Multimetal Craftsmanship through Metallurgical debris - : Open air workshops and multimetality in Late Iron Age Scandinavia
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sep 1
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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