N.N., Rozanova L.S.,
V.I., Tolmacheva M.M
of the blacksmiths' craft
In this paper metallographical analytical method is
applied to ancient iron artefacts as the basical one. This permits to use
the obtained information for reconstructing the technology of producing
certain artefacts. And as a result one can search the development of the
This paper for the first time presents in systematic
and generalised form great analytical material on the techniques of
ironworking (both the Early Iron Age and the Medieval Period) in Eastern
Europe. Its database includes more than 6000 analyses. The overwhelming
part of it is the result of the authors' work, but all available
publications on the problem are also reflected.
Metallurgy and metalworking from very beginning were
among the leading branches of ancient economy. Consequently, studying the
history of certain people, one cannot avoid the problem of development of
these trades. In our works metallographical analytical method is applied
to ancient iron artefacts as the basical one. This permits to extend
significantly the information obtained for reconstructing the technology
of manufacturing certain artefacts, find also to value the quality of its
processing and the raw materials choosen, as well as to judge about the
expediency of the used technological scheme in concrete categories of
artefacts and the smith's labour-intensiveness. Finally, metallographical
method enables us to obtain the characteristic of producing skills and
the organisation of production.
Our paper presents great analytical material on the
techniques of ironworking in Eastern Europe. Its database includes more
than 6000 analyses. The overwhelming part of it is the result of the
authors' work, but all available publications on the problem are also
The great interest has the problem of reconstruction of
different modes in ancient technique and technology of ferrous metals'
treatment. Experimental data became the basis for demonstration of the
successive stage of processing raw material and its gradual turn into
A number of experiments were carried out on processing
raw materials from bloom to finished product. They were accompanied by
metallographical investigations of corresponding samples and their
comparison with archaeological artefacts.
Having analysed the data obtained, we would suggest the
following definitions for various stages of producing and processing
ferrous metal as applied to archaeological materials: furnace bloom,
bloom, half-finished product, billet.
bloom is an immediate
product of bloomery ironmaking, not undergone mechanical force. It is a
solid mass of iron, its pores and cavities filled with slag.
Bloom reflects an initial stage of furnace bloom
treatment as a result some slag inclusions are partially removed, metal
being condensed to certain degree.
product is a final stage
of processing furnace bloom; as a result monolithic iron mass was
obtained. This iron material was suitable for producing rough specimen (billet).
Billet (rough specimen) reflects the initial
stage of technological process of producing blacksmith's article. The
similarity of an artefact with some definable but unfinished article
should be regarded as a formal indication of billet.
First iron articles in Eastern Europe were appeared in
archaeological sites of the Bronze Age. A rich burial in the barrow
cemetery near Boldyrevo village (Southern Urals, Orenburg region)
contained a set of various copper artefacts. Among them a number of iron
tools were present: a chisel-liketool, an adze-like bimetallic tool with
copper handle and iron blade, and also a disk-shaped object.
Metallographical and chemical investigation of these pieces led us to a
conclusion, that the metal used for their production had a meteorite
origin. Of special interest is the fact, that the tools found in the same
burial were made of the meteorites of different types. Having into
account small probability of finding different meteorites in the same
place, we should presume a purposeful search of new material (i.e. iron)
throughout a vast territory.
The first artefacts made of metallurgical iron appeared
in the territory of Eastern Europe as early as the second half of the 2nd
millennium B.C. The finds are extremely rare, their set being confined to
the artefacts simple by their form and small in size. The technologies of
simple modes of free hot forging are observed, but also there existed
such a specific method for ferrous metals' treatment as smith's welding.
The Scythian period is extremely interesting one. It is
characterised by leap-like changes in development in technology of
ironworking. During comparatively short chronological period of the late
8th-7th centuries B.C. formation of basical technical and technological
modes took place. We mean obtaining of different kinds of steel by way of
chemical and heat transformations, the application of differentiated
methods of heat-treatment and various technological schemes, such as:
smith's-welding of iron and steel plates with the hardest metal exposed
to the cutting edge; carburization of the working part; steel artefacts'
We looked out data from the sites of Scythian period
located on the northern and southern slopes of Central Caucasus, in
north-eastern and north-western parts of it, and also in the region
between the Volga and Kama rivers, steppe part of the North Pontic area,
and forest-steppe zone at the Dniper.
The technical achievements, noticed in this period, are
spread in the southern part of Eastern Europe, and their chronological
coincidence with the emergence of the Scythian and Cimmerian tribes on
the historical scene is by no means accidental. These tribes stimulated
cultural contacts among different peoples, which in its turn promoted
further spreading technological knowledge. These were the regions,
connected by cultural and historical links, where technical and
technological innovations are observed, which went back to the developed
ironworking centres of Western Asia and Transcaucasus.
The population of the forest zone in this period
practically was not familiar with iron. Only the sites belonging to the
southern group of Anan'ino culture (the Volga-Kama region) were the
exception, in these materials the connections with Caucasian centres are
Numerous publications were devoted to the problems of
ironworking trade in classical period, but technological analyses dated
from this epoch are very few, which is caused by unsatisfactory state of
iron artefacts. So of great significance are the analytical materials
obtained by the authors during the study of iron finds from Gorgippia (in
the territory of modern town of Anapa), one of the significant cities of
the Bosporian state. Among numerous technological modes, revealed by
metallographical analyses, we should mention unique ones for this epoch,
such as: welding steel plates on iron core; welding-in; soldering iron
with non-ferrous metals.
The materials from different cultures of the
forest-steppe and forest zones of Eastern Europe, dated from the late 1st
millennium B.C. up to the third quarter of the 1st millennium A.D. have a
great interest. One can say that in forest-steppe zone in the late 1st
millennium B.C. powerful centres of iron output and processing raw
materials existed (Uman' and Novoklinovo in the Ukraine). In the forest
zone iron began to penetrate into the everyday life of the local
population. By the middle of the 1st millennium A.D. the quantity of
metal finds there increased noticeably. Summing up the analytical data,
we may state that in spite of some local differences, the both zones went
on the same general line of development of ironworking. During the whole
period the simplest modes of producing iron artefacts prevailed: of iron
or of steel with unhomogenous contents of carbon. Usually raw material's
treatment is of poor quality; slag inclusions are numerous in metal. Both
in forest and forest-steppe zones the carburization of finished items was
not frequent also. Smith's welding was known as a basis of technological
scheme, but was extremely rare (observed in isolated cases). Heat
treatment of smiths' production in this period was spread widely enough.
The share of heat-treated artefacts reached usually 25%.
Generally speaking, we should say, that blacksmiths'
production in forest and forest-steppe cultures of the 1st millennium
A.D. had developed into an independent trade, this thesis being supported
by the finds of semi-finished commodity items and blooms. But
differentiation and specialisation in blacksmith trade did not exist yet.
This can be seen from the absence of standard modes of processing certain
categories of artefacts. The production should be regarded as a result of
universal craftsman's work, which was able to make any necessary item.
The new phase of Eastern Europe blacksmith craft was
begun in the Middle Age.
The history of Khazar khaganat – an early state
formation in Eastern Europe – absorbed the attention of numerous
scholars. Still such an important branch of trade activity as ironworking
remained outside the scope of specialists.
Our investigations of ironworking in the territory
between the Don and Donets rivers, which belonged to Khazar khaganat,
demonstrate that a single centre of ironworking emerged there on the
threshold of the 1st and 2nd millennia A.D. It belonged to
Saltovo-Mayatsk archaeological culture. Blacksmiths' production of this
centre was connected with metallurgical centres of the steppe and
forest-steppe zones, where furnaces of different types of construction
were used. They differed in mass of their output, and this fact
determined some specific features of ironworking in each region.
For the forest-steppe region of Khazaria the main
material was well-forged low-carbon steel. In the steppe region unevenly
carbonized steel was typical, which undergone forging in course of
formation of an artefact. In the forest-steppe region the basic
technological mode was piled-welding, used both in processing raw metal
and producing artefacts. Piled-welded metal is characterized by
multilayerness. The usage of piled-welded metal blocks is noticed where
steel plates of high quality and high-phosphorus iron were joint. Such
blocks were used for producing certain categories of artefacts:
battle-axes, hoes and some types of knives. In the steppe zone
piled-welding technology had quite different character. Much less items
are made of piled-welded billet, small number of metal layers
characterizes the latter. Welding of iron with high quality steel in
these billets is rarely observed, this technological mode is applied, as
a rule, for the same categories as in the forest-steppe zone, where
articles made of steel are dominating. In the forest-steppe area steel
artefacts are less numerous, than iron ones.
Other aspects of technique and technology in
ironworking are similar enough in the both regions of Khazaria. Thus, the
craftsmen mastered purposefully processing of high-phosphorus iron; they
rarely forged "pure" iron items, and used uniformed set of
technological schemes. Some insignificant differences in the share of
different methods for strengthening working parts of implements (carburization,
welding of two or three plates, welding-in, welding-on, heat treatment)
depend on unequal representatives of various groups of artefacts.
Numerous categories of artefacts in both regions practically coincide
typologically: battle-axes, hoes, mouthpieces, cheek-pieces, stirrups,
sickles, scrapers and spearheads have standard forms. For numerous
categories a tendency to standardization of technological schemes can be
traced, which is usually connected with the function of an artefact.
Integration influence of Khazar khaganat as a state
organization played an essential role in formation of Saltovo-Mayatsk
focus of ironworking, characterized by morphological uniformity of its
production and interchange of technological knowledge.
Comparison of Saltovo-Mayatsk and east-Slavic
blacksmiths' craft gives the evidence of high level of technical
development of this trade in Khazaria. There are numerous common features
in ironworking of the cultures in question, they can be found both in
some technological schemes and the material used; in some cases we may
suppose import of finished or half-finished products. These facts should
be explained by chronological and territorial proximity of the tribes
included into the sphere of influence of Khazar khaganat on the last
stage of its existence.
Ironworking in Khazaria had developed into an
independent branch of economic activity and had got the features of
professional craft, obviously aimed at military necessities. It was not
urban trade differentiated into certain specialization typical of
Mediaeval period. In Saltovo-Mayatsk craft the initial signs of this
process are observed, which was interrupted by disintegration of the
Traditions in ironworking amongst the population of
Khazaria were formed on the basis of synthesis of technical knowledge of
different ethnic groups. This process accompanied complicated events of
political history of the Alanian and Bulgarian hordes, which formed the
bulk of Khazarian population.
The blacksmiths' craft of the mediaeval Finno-Ugrian
tribes in west Ural region was a part of East-European ironworking. In
the beginning of the 2nd millennium A.D. blacksmiths' trade of the
Uralian Finnish tribes entered a new period, as the other East-European
peoples. The innovations originating amongst urban craftsmen became
definitive factors of the time. These events manifested brightly in west
Uralian ironworking by usage of three-fold welded construction. Permian
tribes on threshold of the 9th-10th centuries adopted the first tools
made in such a technological scheme. And as early as the 10th-11th
centuries the process of active mastering this technology was taking
place. But this was the end of innovations in the local ironworking.
Permian craftsmen producing knives did not use technological schemes of
various types of welding-on, popular in blacksmiths' trade of Ancient
Russia beginning from the middle of the 12th century; though these
technologies were applied for wood-processing tools.
Certain standardization of blacksmiths' production was
traced, as well as connection between technological scheme and the
category of articles: the most part of axes had steel welded-in cutting
edges, for knives three-fold welded construction was spread. No essential
changes took place during the period in question in the set of
technological schemes used. Wide spreading of raw steel amongst Uralian
blacksmiths should be pointed out. They were capable to recognize
ordinary and high-phosphorus iron, as in a number of samples combination
of different sorts of iron is traced. Permian craftsmen mastered numerous
types of heat-treatment, which was applied differentially.
On the basis of analytical data we came to a conclusion,
that in the first half of the 2nd millennium A.D. a complicated technical
and technological trade structure existed in the territory of western
Urals. The local ironworking underwent strong influence of Novgorodian
blacksmiths' craft, but also preserved some specific features.
Blacksmiths' craft of Ancient Russia is described in
details in archaeological literature. Nevertheless, only general review
of the bulk of material obtained by now allowed the authors to raise the
question about the origins of formation of traditions in ironworking as
far as different local centres are concerned.
The main attention of the present paper was turned to
knives. This multifunctional tool is not only the most numerous category
of articles of blacksmiths' production, but it also reflects most
exhaustively the degree of technological development as well as shifts
taking place in economy of ancient societies.
Our conclusions are based on the analytical data
obtained from some series of knives from numerous sites belonging to the
following ancient Russia lands as: Kiev and Chernigovo-Seversk
principalities in Southern Russia, and Novgorod land and Rostov-Suzdal
principality in Northern Russia. The chronological scope of the study is
dated to the 9th-13th centuries.
The results of analytical investigations of collection
of knives gave the evidence to state an essential difference in
technological traditions in blacksmiths' trade of Southern and Northern
Russia. Thus, for Southern Russian lands application of simple
technological schemes is characteristic: articles of steel and iron. Some
archaic modes of processing are preserved there, such as carburization of
finished artefacts, and piled-welded construction. The most progressive
technological scheme was welding of steel cutting edge on iron core and
subsequent hardening. Technological peculiarity of Northern Russian lands
is expressed in preferring welded constructions based on combination of
iron with steel with application of heat treatment. The main
technological schemes are tree-fold welded construction and welding-on.
The first one was dominating during the 10th-11th centuries, and the
latter one prevailed in later periods.
The roots of technological traditions in blacksmiths'
craft of southern Russian sites can be traced back to the period of the
Early Iron Age, they based on Celtic heritage and survived up to the
Mongol conquest in the 13th century. The origins of tree-fold welded
scheme, which was the leading one in the vast territories of Northern
Russia, should be connected with Scandinavia.
Beginning from the 13th centuries these differences in
the technological field of production between Northern and Southern
Russia gradually disappeared. Welding-on technological scheme spread
being universal and the most efficient method of manufacturing the most
types of high-quality production.
Generally development of East-European blacksmiths'
craft did not followed some isolated way, but was a part of great
historical process of formation of trades. On some stages it underwent
certain alien influences. Combination of various factors caused specific
features of ironworking in Eastern Europe.
N.N., Rozanova L.S.,Zavyalov V.I., Tolmacheva M.M,