Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IBERIRON (THE RISE OF IRON TECHNOLOGY IN PRE-ROMAN IBERIA: A LARGE-SCALE AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH)
Reporting period: 2018-09-15 to 2020-09-14
The objective of the project was to characterize the technology of iron applied to the manufacture of objects, with a special focus on weapons as artefacts of particularly high archaeological, symbolic and practical significance, making use of tailored methodologies adapted to the features of the material. The results were analysed to identify geographical and chronological trends, interactions between cultural areas and the dynamics of the development, implementation and exchange of the technological knowledge associated with the working of iron. It was also a priority to make the results of this study F.A.I.R (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) and the ensuing database to be published in Open Access
The project has collected and analysed more than then 60 samples of archaeological ferrous artifacts from five archaeological sites, significantly increasing the amount of metallographical analyses of pre-roman peninsular ferrous weapons and creating an incipient new corpus of other iron-based artefacts of the same period, comprising tools and structural elements.
The analytical characterization of the materials has provided insight not only into the chaîne opératoire involved in the fabrication of technologically complex artefacts but also into the production methodologies of iron and steel, giving subsequent rise to questions about craft organization as well as putting into question some of the funerary practises involving incineration and pre-depositional treatment of the weaponry.
It has been established that high-carbon steel was most probably produced during the smelting process and regularly used to improve the mechanical performance of weapons, but that it was at the same time a scarce resource, a sought after valuable commodity and element of exchange. This opens new exciting lines of research on the power relationships that would exist around the control of the resources required to obtain it in the shape of raw materials or specialized technological knowledge.
The intentionality of some technological practises has been put in question. The process of carburization that aims at superficially turning iron into steel to improve the mechanical properties of the manufactured objects seems not to be a stablished technical procedure. Also, the generation of patinas or coatings of black, shiny magnetite using heat seems to be accidental in the case of weapons blades, but it was probably intentional in the case of decorated iron objects, like weapons scabbards, pommels or guards. In all cases, further investigation based on targeted sampling is planned.
The project has also taken advantage of favourable circumstances to explore the possibility of incorporating into the protocols and good practises the use of increasingly available non-invasive techniques, in particular the use of Time-of-Flight Neutron Diffraction (ToF-ND) for the study of archaeological ferrous objects.
The work and results of IBERIRON have been disseminated in several conferences and events, included such a landmark event as is the “Archaeometallurgy in Europe 2019” conference in Miskolc (Hungary), and we expect to publish the overall results of the project in two to three academic journals over the next year, as well as the specific cases of the main sites that have provided samples for study shortly after.
The results of IBERIRON are putting the Iberian Peninsula in line with other territories in Europe and the Mediterranean who went through similar processes and that are being researched right now. As comparable technological patterns are being found and complementary methodological approaches are being developed, the possibilities for wider international studies and collaborations involving long-ranged questions about the development, perception, assimilation and transmission of technological knowledge are becoming a reality and we plan to work in this direction