Using mineral magnetism to characterise ironworking and to detect its evidence in peat bogs

T. M. Mighall, I. D. L. Foster, P. Crew, A. S. Chapman, A. Finn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


An experimental approach has been used to establish whether medieval ironworking activity could be identified in peat bogs using mineral magnetic measurements. The research project comprised three elements. First, magnetic susceptibility and remanence properties were obtained for materials from an experimental iron smelt, in a furnace of medieval design, and from material collected during the excavation of the medieval bloomery at Llwyn Du in Coed y Brenin, Snowdonia. Materials sampled and measured included charcoal, aerial dust, roasted bog ore and furnace dust. A second experiment determined whether small amounts of aerial dust released from the furnace could be detected in accumulating peat samples. This was achieved by sprinkling small quantities of dust on to a constructed 'peat core' that had no detectable magnetic signature prior to the addition of the dust. The application rates used were within the range expected to fall on a peat bog located close to a medieval furnace. Thirdly, mineral magnetic measurements were made on a peat core collected close to the Llwyn Du bloomery. The results confirm that toasted bog ore, aerial dust released from and dust accumulating in the furnace after a smelt. are magnetically detectable. The aerial dust and roasted bog ore produced enhanced susceptibility and remanence signatures in the constructed 'peat core' experiments. Peaks in IRM(0.88T) and HIRM were measured in the Llwyn Do peat monolith and appear to correlate with a time when the medieval bloomery was operational. The results presented here suggest that it is possible to identify evidence of past ironworking in peat bogs using mineral magnetic measurements and that the signatures remain well preserved in the peat record even after burial for several hundred years. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-139
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jul 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • mineral magnetism
  • ironworking
  • medieval
  • peat bog
  • Snowdonia
  • history
  • Wales
  • soils


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