Archaeology, Archaeology Research

Success in Huttenberg

Well, I say Huttenberg, but to be honest I think I visited the village once!

The trip to Austria went really well. Not only did I have an absolutely fantastic time in a beautiful country eating fantastic food and drinking suprisingly nice beer (I am not a beer drinker normally!) but the site… the material takes your breath away!

Six excavated furnaces. Literally tonnes of finds including not just tap slags, but beautiful furnace walls, roasted and unroasted ores, charcoal samples, unfired clay samples, untempered clay samples, and rarest of all – bloom fragments. Hell, not just bloom fragments but a number of what appeared to be rather uninspiring lumps and in fact turned out to be failed blooms. Whole, massive, failed blooms.

Cut failed bloom from the Huttenberg site of Briggite Cech, Austria

The bright lines you can see are metallic iron. It’s formed around what was probably charcoal, and in beautiful swathes. You can see how unimpressive the lump itself was prior to cutting. The fact that it contains such rare and exciting material is hardly visible from the outside, and just shows you that often you can’t judge metal production debris on outside appearance alone.

Tom Birch slicing slag on the saw

In this case, we (okay, Tom did the hard work!) cut the piece because we found it responded in places to a magnet. I know not everyone bothers to check their material with a magnet, but I can really reccommend it. This piece does actually look rather a lot like a bloom, now that I’ve seen experimental examples.

I can only say how lucky we were to have a saw, and a large water-cooled one at that. Without it we’d have probably passed over this piece due to its size and weight. After we found this one, we found another group of these which the excavators had decided to keep because they weren’t sure what they were. I really couldn’t ask for more exiciting material!

All I can say is keep your eyes open for these in the future, they’re fascinating for people like me. They look a lot like blooms, are much more dense than slag cakes (I could only just lift this one), and respond to magnets. I’d rather see these things routinely chopped in half than just discarded as undiagnostic rubbish.

Anyway, after two solid days taking samples from the extensive site archive, I have eight boxes weighing a total of about 80kgs on their way to me by Austria postal service, estimated time of arrival: three weeks. Frankly, I can hardly wait to see them and get them sorted out. The material is really exciting, the site archive was really easy to get to grips with and better than anything, the site director is really enthusiastic about my work which makes the whole process very enjoyable. Fingers-crossed everything gets to me safely!

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