International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Iron metallurgy in the Yamal.

E.V. Vodyasov

Tomsk State University, Tomsk



*The study was performed with the support of the President of the RF grant № МК-3166.2017.6  "The Oldest Centers of Ferrous Metallurgy in Northern Eurasia: New Sources, Methods, and Interpretations".

Until recently there were practically no finds of any remains related to iron production in the north of Western Siberia not to mention the Yamal or the neighboring territories. One may mention the remains of a puddling chimney found in a Sarov hillfort of the Sarov stage of the Kulai culture by L.A. Chindina [Чиндина, 1984. P. 141]. Similar observations were made by A.P. Zykov who mentioned the finds of metallurgical iron slag in the early Iron Age settlements, as well as blacksmith’s tools and other similar evidence [Зыков и др., 1994. P. 47]. However all these and later structures, such as the Rachev archeological complex [op.cit] have been found in the more southern territories of the Tomsk-Narym Ob region and the Irtysh area. This paper is an attempt at summing up the known archaeological sources on ferrous metallurgy discovered within the past five years in the Lower Ob and the Yamal regions.

The oldest evidences of iron making production in the form the remains of iron smelting chimneys were found on Ust Polui sacred place and were dated as the 1st century BC - 1st century AD. [Водясов, Гусев, 2016]. The ancient smelters were familiar with slag tapping technology. They used animal bones as fluxes. The geochemical uniformity of slag was an evidence of the use of common technology and the development of one and the same iron ore deposit. Ust Polui is today the northernmost place in the Arctic region where iron production was practiced about 2000 years ago.

What kind of events triggered the development of ancient metallurgy in the Polar region is yet unknown. Apparently this was somehow related to the fading out of the metallurgical and bronze casting centers, e.g. the Ananjin, the Itkul, etc., which supplied metal to the northern regions in the early Iron Age.

There is a known find of blacksmith slag of the Middle Age period discovered in the course of excavations of a burial site near Zeleny Yar village. It was found in 2013 together with the 7th century ceramics. [Гусев, 2014. P. 14]. The total weight of the slag was not more than 0.5 kg. Its morphology indicated its origin from a smithy rather than from a smelting furnace. Unfortunately, for technical reasons it was possible to determined the amount of iron, however, the spectrographic analysis demonstrated that it was not bronze casting, but the iron-making production slag (Table 1).


Table 1. Results of emission spectrum analysis

of iron slag near Zeleny Yar village (%)

At the occupation site Sugmuten-yagun Vа the hearth bottom fragments have been found. L.A. Kosinskaya dated them by the accompanying ceramics as the 4th-6th centuries AD. [Косинская, 2014. P. 73].

During the excavations of Bukhta Nakhodka hillfort in the Yamal dated by the author as the 12th-14th centuries [Кардаш, 2011] 9 fragments of blooms and 6 fragments of metal slag were found [op.cit., p. 35, Fig. 47]. O.V. Kardash interpreted them as imported (op.cit.), which seems unlikely, particularly with regard to slag.

Thus in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug there are 4 known sites with the remains of iron metallurgy. The described materials significantly expand the geography of the use of iron by humans in the northern areas.



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