28 Sunday 2nd May - Iron Smelting Established

Yesterday's trenches 1 and 2 lay at the top of the slope and had been surrounded by a stock proof fence.  Today, we moved our attention to the bottom of the slope  and opened trench 3,  where we had previously found fragments of slag and molten iron.  As expected, beneath the turf and soil, we hit a thick layer of metal and slag and Mike decided to dig an exploratory hole to see how deep this layer was .  Meanwhile, Janet, Christine and Georgina decided to open  a new trench 4 between trenches 2 and 3 hopefully to reveal a furnace or other structure between the two locations.

It was a cold wind and we huddled on the slope for lunch only to attract some visitors interested in our sandwiches!

After lunch, Mike kept us entertained at trenches 3 and 4 while Trevor, the farmer, came over to see how we were doing.  We decided to back fill trench 1 after further excavation had showed more orange coloured stone and gritty sand but nothing else.  Trevor brought in his tractor to speed things up dramatically.


In trench 3, Mike had reached the bottom of the slag  to a whitish clay base with an in-situ run of molten iron on the clay.  The run of iron is in the bottom left hand corner of the cross section (middle photo).  In the right hand photo, it is at the top left hand part of the base of the hole.  The tray contains some of the more interesting iron and slag finds.

The separation of the outputs of the smelting process (slag and iron) in trench 3 at the bottom of the slope from the inputs (anthracite, iron ore and limestone) in trenches 1 and 2  at the top could not have occurred by the tipping of material from outside of the site.  Therefore, we could say with confidence that the site had been used for smelting iron.

In trench 4, part way up the slope, we found stones and yellowish gritty sand like trenches 1 and 2 in the top three-fifths of the trench while the lower two-fifths took a darker greyish colour. The trench contained a few fingernail-sized pieces  of charcoal in the top part and there was significantly more slag and iron found  in the lower part.  We detected a circular shape in this lower grey area (click on the image to enlarge) and wonder if we may have uncovered the top of a small bloomery or blast furnace.   This will be the focus of attention tomorrow.