Experimental Iron Smelting at Meroe, Sudan

Author(s): Michael Charlton; Jane Humphris

Year: 2017


The Royal City of Meroe, situated 250km north of Khartoum in the Republic of Sudan, was a capital of the Kingdom of Kush from the 4th Century BC. Famed for its pyramids and other monumental architecture, Meroe was also home to extensive bloomery ironworks exemplified by numerous slag mounds scattered across the site. Superficial investigation of furnace and slag remains were undertaken in the 1980’s and raised numerous questions about the technology. New archaeometallurgical research was initiated by UCL Qatar in 2012 to make sense of the scale and economy of the ancient iron industry. In concert with targeted excavation of iron-making workshops and materials characterization of metallurgical residues, a series of experimental smelting campaigns were undertaken in 2015 and 2016 in order to test hypotheses about resource use, furnace operation, and workshop organization. Experiments yielded mixed success in terms of slag and iron production, but were nonetheless fruitful in furthering the development of a general iron production model for Meroe. This paper describes the two smelting experiments conducted at Meroe and offers a quantitative assessment of their results. A direct comparison is also made between the experimental findings and the archaeological remains under study.

Cite this Record

Experimental Iron Smelting at Meroe, Sudan. Michael Charlton, Jane Humphris. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429350)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16981