Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2015 dig

The Fulford Tapestry

Investigating Ferrous Finds

Summary of published report

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Investigating Ferrous Finds
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Interpretation Finds 1 Finds 2  Finds 3 Finds 4 Finds 5 x-rays Iron the metal  Weights Methods Mass profile Tanged arrow

Nearly half (41%) of the material produced by the metal survey is ferrous. It is not normal to recover ferrous material because it is generally believed unstable and does not easily yield information about its origin. This project calls for this assumption to be reassessed.

As the battle was fought between warriors clad in iron, who used weapons made of iron, there is a case to be made that the site should be have an 'above average' amount of ferrous material. It was believed that sites were cleared and material recycled after a battle so only smaller fragments are likely to have survived. Fulford confirmed this assumption and we had the good fortune to find evidence of metal recycling all along Germany Beck.

A scan of research material on the web indicated that:

  • Ferrous material is only analysed if its relevance can be inferred from the context in which it is found.
  • Certain shapes, especially those of weapons, can be distinguished and charts of fragments have been produced to aid identification.

    Neither favourable circumstance apply to our situation. These are surface finds, lost in battle or subsequently. The intervening centuries will have allowed corrosion to change the shape.

The intention, nevertheless, was to gather ferrous material:

  • The wide-area survey will also provide a ‘background noise’ against which it might be possible to derive some pointers in the hunt for battles.
  • Statistical analysis might allow a pattern of density to be plotted. The density of finds might provide an indication of activity.
  • 'Hot spots' can be identified. Several can be identified as bonfire debris from the previous century but older areas of high intensity will attract attention.

I still wonder if more information can be extracted from these finds in a way analogous to the many shards collected on every site. Fragments of pottery yield valuable dating information which has been well documented. An expert can extract the information from a quick visual inspection. Unfortunately, ferrous objects cannot be analysed in such a simple way.

  • The shape of the object is often concealed beneath layers of rust or iron-rot which can be revealed if x-rayed from the appropriate direction and this was done.
  • The composition of the metal cannot be observed directly although such a ‘finger print’ might be very revealing if a scanning microscope was used or and absorption spectrum was taken. The XRF machine allowed this to be done and there is a great deal more to be written about this.
  • The crystal structure of the metal would reveal much about how the item had been worked but this would require destructive testing.
  • It is possible that some specimens might have retained some magnetic or other trace background environmental information from the time of manufacture.

Some of these techniques would be destructive. This is not seen as a major problem as the fragments are valuable only for the information they yield. The visually promising finds would be treated by conventional conservation technique.

It is a shame that such a potentially valuable resource should be overlooked especially in the context of the hunt for a battle site when much metal was shed along with blood. I am aware of many techniques that might yield useful results and would appreciate some support to carry out a feasibility study.

CJ 2/03 (with subsequent minor edits)

These finds came from the first search. By very good fortune we had included one of the metal reprocessing sites. The item at the bottom turned out to be one of two part made tanged arrows we found in this area. But it would be 5 years before this picture emerged as the plan was to do all the collection before the material was analysed.

 

Related sites Facebook  Twitter (@ helpsavefulford)        Visiting Fulford        Map York

There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Belt, floodplain housing estate.

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com  last updated June 2015

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