This is another quietly evangelising publication, priced to ensure a wide circulation and written by the leading experts in their field, part of whose purpose is to alert non metallurgists (NMs) to the sorts of thing that get metallurgists (Ms) excited so that NMs across the archaeological community can help Ms identify sites and material that can provide answers to questions of fundamental importance to Ms.

Hence, packed into this 96-page book is, in effect, a comprehensive overview of metal extraction and working methods from prehistory to the 20th century, brought to life through photographs of excavations, artefacts (such as Anglo-Saxon brooches and brooch moulds), contemporary illustrations (such as 16th-century German woodcuts of copper smelting) and reconstruction drawings (of a Saxon blacksmith’s forge in Hamwic, or a charcoal-fuelled blast furnace in Cumbria). All this is accompanied by an account of the sources – documentary and archaeological – and the methods used to understand historical metallurgy (from fieldwork to laboratory analysis and experimental archaeology).

The book ends with an agenda for future research: topics that are not just of importance to Ms, but that are really central to the world of NMs too, like ‘identify prehistoric mines; date ancient mine workings; explain fluctuations in the prehistoric use of gold; date the beginning of iron technology in Britain’.

 

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