Geochemical Provenance Mapping of Pre-Roman Ironworking sites in Britain

Projection of Beckford Iron Age objects into regional provenance fields.  Objects are characterized by the chemistry of their slag inclusions and the fields are defined by bloomery slag chemistry.

The IRONWORKS project combines innovative data analytic techniques with geochemical characterization methods to build a multi-element provenance database of smelting slag from primary iron production sites.

This work will add a critical piece to the iron provenance puzzle, allowing researchers to realize the promise of advances in slag inclusion analysis and test a robust series of artefact sourcing hypotheses across multiple elemental and geographic scales.

Investigations will focus on Pre-Roman Iron Age iron production sites in Britain, a region both known to classical authors as an exporter of iron metal and whose archaeological record is rich with 'currency bars' and other forms of trade iron. Building on previous studies of variation in bloomery slag, this project will sample material from geologically defined and historically relevant regions; characterize their chemistry using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission and mass spectrometry (ICP-AES/MS); and explore their structure with multivariate statistical methods.

Specific objectives include determining the optimal element combination for discriminating slag at site, regional, and superregional scales, comparing the utility of various data treatments, and constructing a series of multivariate geochemical maps for facilitating artefact provenance investigations. Provenance hypotheses will also be evaluated for a select group of previously sampled iron artefacts dated stylistically or contextually to the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

The IRONWORKS project will advance the state of the art in iron provenance methods, generate a practical and expandable database of slag chemistry and build a solid foundation for identifying extinct iron exchange networks.

Related outputs

  • Details will be made available here in due course.


Project Leader:

  • Mike Charlton (Marie Curie Fellow, UCL 2014-16)

Project Partners:


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