chapter  3
27 Pages

Metals

WithJanet Lang

Metals are useful and versatile materials with both strength and ductility, and their exploitation has been a key element in the development of human material culture. As most metals are not immediately available but have to be extracted from their ores, their use implies a certain level of technical expertise, and recognition of technical advance is reflected in the use of the terms ‘Bronze Age’ and ‘Iron Age’ to describe the cultural horizons when these metals began to be used extensively. Metals can be formed into a desired shape by casting molten metal in a mould or by working solid metal with tools. Metals can be cut and joined, decorated by chasing or engraving and embellished by the addition of inlays, enamels and stones. The methods used to work the metal and fabricate objects reveal the particular skills of the craftsman and may also reflect the craft-cultural traditions of their society. Radiography has an invaluable role to play in the recognition of these techniques of manufacture and thus contributes to our knowledge of the societies that produced the artefacts, and to our broader understanding of the history of technology.