The Iron Age iron slags of Maastricht – Randwyck: processing or production?

Arnoldussen, S., 2017, Metaaltijden: Bijdragen in de studie van de metaaltijden. Arnoldussen, S., Müller, A. & Norde, E. (eds.). Sidestone press, Vol. 4. p. 149-163 15 p.

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The increasingly abundant presence of iron artefacts in Early Iron Age urnfield contexts, is not matched by a similarly exhaustive dataset on (local) iron production. Rather, I have argued elsewhere (Arnoldussen & Brusgaard 2015, 117), that evidence for Iron Age primary iron production (i.e. smelting) in the Netherlands is as yet absent (cf. Brusgaard et al. 2015, 359). Smithing, in contrast, appears to be well documented from the Middle Iron Age (c. 600-250 cal. BC) onwards: particularly associated finds of tuyere or crucible fragments with slag fragments hint at local ironworking (e.g. at Velsen-Santpoort, Oss-Ussen and Oss- Schalkskamp; Van Heeringen 1992, 73(157); 75 (159); Schinkel 1998, 91-93; fig. 126; Brusgaard et al. 2015, 357). Most of the local ironworking evidence, however, seems to pertain to the Middle and Late Iron Age periods (Arnoldussen & Brusgaard 2015, 117 table. 1, cf. Joosten 2004, 22-25) and it is generally assumed that prior to the Roman Period, no local smelting occurred (e.g. De Rijk 2003, 88; Joosten 2004, 30; Van den Broeke 2005, 688; Brusgaard et al. 2015, 359). If one wants to investigate the transition in ironworking technologies from (A) reworking imported iron billets or bars (e.g. Verhart 2006, 103, Van As 2013, 26, cf. De Rijk 2003; 82-83; 2007, 164, cf. Brusgaard et al. 2015, 359) to (B) local iron production (smelting), the ironworking evidence for the Early Iron Age (c. 800-600 cal BC) becomes of particular significance. For Oss-Ussen, six pits dated to the Early Iron Age have yielded slag fragments (Schinkel 1998, 55-56), that are unfortunately not yet studied in detail. For Maastricht – Randwijck, Dijkman (1989, 38) identified a series of slag fragments from an Early to Middle Iron Age ‘horseshoe-shaped feature’ as smelting debris. If this is correct, it would represent one of the earliest indications of local iron production (Brusgaard et al. 2015, 359, cf. Van den Broeke 1980, 108; 2012, 287). To investigate this claim, a set of slag fragments from the Maastricht – Randwijck feature has been restudied by the author in 2016.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMetaaltijden
Subtitle of host publicationBijdragen in de studie van de metaaltijden
EditorsStijn Arnoldussen, Axel Müller, E. Norde
PublisherSidestone press
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • ironworking, prehistory

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