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Immanence, configuration and the bloomery ironmaking process: identifying behavioural opportunities from physical constraints

Author(s): Michael Charlton

Year: 2015

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All metallurgical systems conform to the scientific laws defined for chemical, physical and thermodynamic interactions. These laws place clear limitations on the range of technological possibility, but, more importantly, create technological opportunity. Some metallurgical opportunities will be better suited to particular socioeconomic and natural environments than others. Models derived jointly from Materials science and Geology on one hand and evolutionary sciences on the other can offer insights for identifying the exploitation of metallurgical opportunities in the archaeological record, predicting the kinds of environments in which particular forms of exploitation are likely to occur and hypothesizing the trajectories of metallurgical traditions.

Ternary phase diagrams have a long history of use in archaeometallurgy for inferring parameters of smelting processes from the primary chemical components of slag—a residuum of non-reduced compounds from the furnace charge. The structure of ternary phase diagrams also serve as simple models of technological possibility that, when combined with insights from evolutionary theory, become fitness landscape models. Application of one such model to slag from an Iron Age and Medieval bloomeries in northwest Wales reveals how the histories of ironmaking processes are shaped through the interplay between scientific law, culture and the environment.

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Immanence, configuration and the bloomery ironmaking process: identifying behavioural opportunities from physical constraints. Michael Charlton. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396495)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America