Irish Bloomery Sites:  "A Site Like KAY" 

Metallurgical waste analysis from Killickaweeny, Co. Kildare



The purpose of this report is to shed light into the nature and extent of metalworking activities within the excavated remains of an Early Medieval and, on account of the material finds, high status site at the townland of Killickaweeny (KAY) in N E Kildare, in the province of Leister, dated to the 9th -10th c AD (Walsh 2003). The site at Killickaweeny was excavated by Fintan Walsh of Irish Archaeological Consultancy Ltd. The project was fully funded by Westmeath County Council and the National Roads Authority.


Fundamental to the understanding of the site is the characterisation of a number of features (pits, gullies etc), in association with the metallurgical waste (MW) found within, and in the context of other craft-based activities, like bone working, potentially practiced on site.

The methods of analysis and testing used in the examination of the metallurgical waste is outlined as follows:

MW data was interpreted in association with physico-chemical data generated by analysis of soils .


KAY has a tight chronological span, i.e. 7th-9th or 10th centuries AD (see C-14 dates in main report). The MW output is commensurate with the duration of the life of the site. The number of furnaces/smithing hearths suggest that iron-making was not necessarily a frequent activity and that the bulk of the KAY smith’s work would have been forging and mending of tools. Yet the proximity to the domestic structures suggests an "intimacy" with iron making, in other words the smith resided in KAY. There are a total of ten features which are clearly metallurgical: these have been classified as furnaces (BF) or hearths (BH) on the basis of their dimensions and shape, the enclosed material evidence (charcoal and slag) and magnetic susceptibility readings associated with their fills.


Killickaweeny archaeological site; after excavations by IAC Ltd.  (Walsh 2003).
Feature C861 showing areas/contexts for which magnetic susceptibility is high (in red; C890) and areas/contexts for which it is low (in green; C937 and C965). C861 is most likely a hearth (Walsh 2003).

SEM-BS image of 23.53SL showing growth of round nodules of iron oxide seen here on section as well as fully grown ones within the underlying cavity consisting of apart from iron oxide, calcium carbonate; the latter must have formed as a result of re-crystallisation thereof, see zoning effect (Walsh 2003).

For full report, click here (SASAA 112)

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