Metalworking Crucibles and Slag

c Seven sherds of crucible and a number of pieces of slag which are probably form the Iron Age, though they could be older. Dr David Dungworth of the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology examined these in 2000
and the following is an excerpt from his report:

"Analysis using fluorescence detected copper, tin, zinc and lead points to them having been used for melting Bronzes and the possibility that they are Iron Age in date, although they could also be early or middle Bronze Age.

The same analytical technique was applied to a fragment of slag. A trace of copper was recorded, although it was so weak that it is unlikely that this waste product arose from the smelting or melting of copper alloys and is far more likely to be from iron working."

This sheds new light on the utilisation of the site as it is possible that the raw material was acquired through trade in the form of currency bars. These have been found in numerous locations to the south of England but have been less common in the north.

The crucible fragments show the continued use of bronze into the Iron Age, probably in specialist centres, making smaller more intricate items than the larger tools. Fragments of crucible used in bronze casting have been found in some similar sites but are not common. This would indicate an element of prestige at the Mellor Settlement and may possibly enable connections to be made to neighbouring sites. It might even be possible that the bronze boss found in Trench 1 in 1999 was made on site.
One item however, can possibly be dated to the Iron Age as it appears to show classic tap slag from a bloomery iron furnace, with characteristic "lava " flow lines on the upper surface.

With thanks to Dr David Dungworth and Norman Redhead, County Archaeologist for Greater Manchester