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Gorffennaf 2008

Putting the Iron into the Iron Age continued...

Postiwyd gan Louise Mumford ar 17 Gorffennaf 2008

More from Ian:

Monday: Following yesterday's success, we created a new bloom. The bloomery was acting differently today, possibly due to the difference in humidity, and the fact that it had dried out more. Again it was a success, although the bloom separated into three pieces. Today I was able to combine my work with school parties with the iron smelting, giving the children a chance to see how the iron objects in the Celtic Village were made. Andrew was able to work one of the smaller blooms into pieces of iron


Putting the Iron into the Iron Age

Postiwyd gan Louise Mumford ar 17 Gorffennaf 2008

Over at St Fagans National History Museum, blacksmith Andrew Murphy and Celtic Village interpreter Ian Daniel, helped by Heulwen Thomas, set out to produce an iron object from ore. Can they really get the sword from the stone (or even a small pocket knife?)

Ian takes up the story:

Saturday: With the threat of rain looming, we started early to make the most of a dry spell; hoping the weather would remain kind we started on the base of the blomery. The day before, we had moved all of the tools and the great bellows to the village so we could concentrate on the construction.

 The building took most of the day, using a mud, hay and sand mix over a lightly-woven greenwood frame. By four o'clock, we had completed the structure, and lit a fire inside to speed the drying process; for the rest of the day, we fed the fire and hoped that it wouldn't rain too heavily in the night


Sunday: The day of the smelt, and today we had some extra help from Hywel, Phillip and Craig, all of them museum assistants. The weather promised to be much better, which helped the outer wall of the bloomery to dry naturally. After lighting the fire, we got to work breaking up the heamatite ore into smaller pieces; all of us shared the job, with one person always working the bellows.

Soon it was time to add the charcoal, then we built up the iron ore and charcoal in layers until it was full. Then it was mainly bellows work, and patching up the bloomery walls as they began to crack, which funnily enough, is a good sign!

After four hours of bellows work, Andy checked the base of the bloomery by opening up the entrance of the tapping arch to see if any slag had formed, and tapped it to see if it had become molten. Soon, we extracted some of the slag and a large bloom of glowing iron, which we cooled in water


After it cooled down, we examined it, and there seemed to be a strong possibility that we had produced Iron - I must admit, it was a very proud moment for me to have taken part in this, and everyone seemed pleased at the result.

 When it had cooled enough, we were able to show it to the visitors, whose interest had been growing throughout the day. Many of them came back more than once to see our progress, which was nice.

So all in all, a very successful day!

All at Sea!

Postiwyd gan Chris Owen ar 16 Gorffennaf 2008

The marine section here at the museum have been exploring the sea floor around Scotland recently. Have a look at the video blog here to see what they were hoping to find on the trip. Check back soon for updates on the weird and wonderful things they actually found.

Mammoth fun in the Ice Age

Postiwyd gan Louise Mumford ar 15 Gorffennaf 2008

National Archaeology Week 2008 is under way at National Museum Wales, and at three NMW sites, visitors have been getting arty like cave-dwellers, writing like Romans, helping to sort out a medieval pottery's rejects and witnessing the technology that put the Iron into the Iron Age.

And all in the first five days!

At National Museum Cardiff, families joined Ken Brassil and  Bethan Jones for Cave Art workshops.


"The cave art weekend was a great success. The visitors became their very own cave men and women for the weekend, exploring the new Origins gallery, studying traditional cave paintings and the animals before stepping back through time in to our Evolution of Wales exhibition, where they were able to experience what life may have been like in a damp dark cave....

The families sketched the animals found around that time before heading back to the present to create their art from the sketches they'd made. The children were able to use and experience similar materials to those their ancestors would have used: stone, wood and even bones. I think using the bones to draw with was everyone's favourite, especially mine!

 A really fun-packed weekend. I was very impressed with the amount of sculpture made as well as drawings. Good job every one, including the parents and grandparents, for getting stuck in!"


"National Archaeology Week kicked off in Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Cardiff with the latest take on Ice Age art created by seriously enthusiastic families of South Walians and super visitors from Quebec City too.

We explored the Palaeolithic zone of the new archaeology galleries and sought out the robotic mammoths in the Evolution of Wales Gallery as catalysts for making clay figures ... to take home.

The mini figures we created made up for the (almost total) absence of Ice Age art from Wales....Mini mammoths were the most popular creation. Some of the seniors modelled hybrid rhino-mammoths, even a cold loving turtle. One family brought their teddy bear mascot to keep company with our museum specimen bear-skull from Tian Shan, China!

If the participants had decided not to take their animals home, then we would need to add two new cases to our new archaeology gallery to accommodate Ice Age Art: Class of 2008 .... Congratulations to you artist-archaeologists....


Welcome to the National Archaeology Week (NAW) blog!

Postiwyd gan Louise Mumford ar 15 Gorffennaf 2008

Every year, National Archaeology Week is co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology, an educational charity working throughout the UK to involve people in archaeology and to promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations. There are events all over England and Wales, and some in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and there is a full list on their website at www.nationalarchaeologyweek.org.uk

This is what the CBA says about the event:

"National Archaeology Week is your unique chance to discover and explore the archaeological heritage of the United Kingdom. During this nine day event, which will run from 12th-20th July, you can take part in excavation open days, hands-on activities, family fun days, guided tours, exhibitions, lectures, ancient art and craft workshops and much, much more".

This year, we have events in all of those categories at National Museum Wales, and if you can't get to any of them, hopefully you can get a flavour of them through this blog.

And if you were there, and want to know what happened after you left, this is your chance to find out!

Did the bloomery actually produce any iron? Did we manage to reconstruct any medieval pots?

Read on....


What Machen primary school have been saying about their visit to the archaeological dig at Llanmaes

Postiwyd gan Chris Owen ar 7 Gorffennaf 2008

"I really enjoyed looking at the pottery and teeth. I would like to know all the things the Iron Age Celts ate. How did they build the round houses? Did they play sport?"

"I liked doing the music because of the really good beats! I liked looking at the pigs teeth and the Roman coin. I would like to be an archaeologist because I love history, but I don't like working in wet weather!"

"I really liked looking at the pig bones and i learnt such a lot!"

"The ceremony we did was fab and I loved our music! I wanted to wear the mask home, but I wasn't sure about tearing up the cauldron we'd made!"

"Recording the music on the computer and changing it using the technology was really cool! The bones were cool as well!"

"I liked wearing the mask and playing the music."

"I really enjoyed today because it was fun. My favourite part was doing the music and going back in time!"