What is Archaeometallurgy?
Thousands of years ago, a hunter sits by a fire sharpening his bronze knife with a special sharpening stone he always carries with him. Suddenly, he hears a noise in the forest behind him and jumps up, dropping his knife to the ground by the fire. He never comes back to pick up the knife, and slowly, it becomes covered with leaves and dirt until the entire culture he was a part of is forgotten.
Many, many years later, an archaeologist working in the same area finds some evidence of an ancient village and begins to investigate the site more thoroughly. While digging on the outskirts of the village site, he uncovers the hunter's knife. It is old and tarnished, but still easily recognizable as something made by human hands. The archaeologist is excited because he knows that this knife has the potential to reveal many clues about the people who lived in this mysterious ancient village.
Metal artifacts, like the hunter's knife, can survive long after organic material has decayed and disappeared from history. The hunter has been gone for thousands of years, but by studying his knife, scientists can learn a lot about him and the culture he came from. This scientific study of metal and metal artifacts produced by ancient people is called archaeometallurgy.
Tools Used in Archaeometallurgy
Archaeometallurgists study metal artifacts, but that's not all! They also study how those artifacts were made. This includes determining the chemical composition of the metal, the technologies used to create different metals, and even how ancient people acquired the different types of ore used to make the artifacts.
To answer these questions, archaeometallurgy uses tools from many other sciences, like chemistry, geology, and materials science. Chemical analyses can be performed to determine the chemical composition of a piece of metal found at an archaeological site. Most of the time, the methods used are completely non-destructive and only require a small sample of the material. When studying ancient artifacts, it is important to be careful not to cause damage to the artifacts in the process. This is something that archaeometallurgists must always be aware of.
In addition to chemical analysis, geology can also be used to make estimates of the time period in which the metal was smelted and the locations where ore could be obtained. In addition, techniques from materials science can give scientists even more information about the structure of the metal, which can help them reconstruct the process that was used to produce the metal. This helps us understand more about the types of technology used by ancient people.
What Can We Learn from Archaeometallurgy?
By studying ancient metals and metal artifacts, we can learn a lot about the people who made the artifacts and the societies in which they lived. Archaeometallurgy can give us important insights about when technological advancements were made. It can also provide information on how new technologies spread from group to group in ancient times. This helps scientists determine which groups of people were interacting with each other in a certain time period and can give insights into the culture of these groups.
Archaeometallurgy is the scientific study of metal and metal artifacts produced by people who lived long ago. It is a branch of archaeology and uses techniques from chemistry, geology, and materials science to understand more about the lives and culture of ancient people. It can tell us a lot about the people who produced the artifacts and about the societies they lived in. It can also give us new insights on how different groups of people interacted with each other and spread new technologies.
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Branches of Modern Metallurgy
Modern metallurgy has two branches. Chemical metallurgy deals with extraction of metals from ores. Physical metallurgy is the treatment of the metal by various means.
The first physical metallurgy process was probably hammering. Blacksmithing, the use of physical means to shape metal, usually ferrous metals, has existed since ancient times. Blacksmithing is referred to in the Old Testament. The oldest known example of casting of metal is a copper frog from Mesopotamia. Tempering a metal improves its physical properties. The oldest example of tempered steel in the ancient world is a pickaxe dated at 1200 to 1100 BCE.
This type of metallurgy is called extractive metallurgy. Only copper, silver, and gold occur in nature uncombined with other elements. To produce pure iron, a process is necessary to extract it from ores. Refining of iron ushered in a new age of history, the Iron Age, which lasted from 1200 BCE to 600 BCE. The first extractive method applied to the ore was smelting by slagging , in which sand is added to the melted ore to "slag off" the impurities.
Importance of Archaeometallurgy
The study of ancient metal objects can help us understand the technology used to produce them. There are some ancient alloys that modern metallurgists have not been able to reproduce.
Research the process by which Hittites extracted iron from rocks. Write a five-paragraph essay about this subject. The Hittites and the Philistines, both mentioned in the Old Testament, both used this technology to produce weapons. Be sure to include the following information.
- When and where did the Hittites and Philistines live?
- Briefly, how are they mentioned in the Bible?
- What type of objects did they produce? Include a graphic of an object produced by this civilization. Be sure to reference where you found the graphic.
- What do we know about the metallurgical processes they used?
- Include one "fun fact" about the Hittites.
Guideline for Assessment
Essays must contain the answers to the five questions posed. They must also follow George Orwell's six rules of writing. A rubric can be constructed for this task assigning value to all eleven required elements. The essay must include a graphic of a Hittite-produced metal object, of which there are many. One such artifact is shown below.
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