Introduction to the archaeometallurgy of iron

Donald B. Wagner

Site map



1. Smelting iron from ore – direct and indirect

Direct iron smelting

What happens in a bloomery?

Bloomery operation

The furnace

Africa in the 20th century

Burkina Faso

Cameroon - the ironmaster Dokwaza

Other films of African iron smelting

The commercial firm Documentary Educational Resources

South Asia in the 19th century

Scandinavia in the 18th century




Southeast Asia

Bronson and Charoenwongsa’s description

Experimental smelting

Blast furnace iron smelting

Blast furnace operation

A traditional blast furnace in Mazandaran, northern Iran

Traditional Chinese blast furnaces

Traditional blast furnaces in Sichuan and Chongqing

Traditional blast furnaces in Dabieshan

Blast furnaces in Chinese archaeology

A Han blast furnace at Guxingzhen, Zhengzhou, Henan

A Song blast furnace at Kuangshancun, near Handan, Hebei

Jin 金 dynasty blast furnaces in Heilongjiang

Blast furnaces in Song–Yuan China

Ming–Qing blast furnaces in Guangdong

Guangdong xinyu: ‘Goods’: ‘Iron’

Excavation of an English blast furnace from about 1600 CE

The economics of direct and indirect iron production

Comparative advantage

The traditional iron industry in Guangdong

Europe and China

No bloomeries in China?

A Han-dynasty bloomery in Guangxi

2. Crucible smelting

Crucible smelting in Shanxi


Crucible smelting in Xinjiang

Crucible smelting in Liaoning

References on crucible smelting

3. Iron casting

Cupola furnaces

An early modern Chinese cupola

An old-fashioned Chinese cupola

The small three-section cupola

Cupolas with the tuyère inserted through the mouth

Cupolas tapped by tilting

A 14th-century Chinese cupola furnace

Cupola furnaces in Chinese archaeology

Early bronze-melting cupolas

Warring States period iron cupolas

A Han-period iron cupola



Sand moulds

A combination of piece-moulding and sand-moulding – Tajiks in Afghanistan

Lost-wax casting

Ceramic moulds

Iron moulds

Stone moulds

4. Conversion of cast iron to wrought iron

Fining and puddling in Europe

The Swedish Walloon hearth

The Swedish Lancashire hearth


Fining and puddling in China

Conversion to wrought iron according to Tian gong kai wu 天工开物

Conversion to wrought iron by solid-state decarburization

5. Steelmaking


Chinese traditional cementation methods


Lower-temperature co-fusion

Higher-temperature co-fusion

6. The crafts of the blacksmith

The seven basic skills of a blacksmith

More blacksmith films

7. Iron microstructures

Films: Introduction to iron-carbon microstructures


White and grey cast iron

Malleable cast iron

Steel microstructures

Cast iron microstructures

Last edited by DBW 2 March 2023