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Iron Age Man in Walkern

by janet on 16 May 2012 · 0 comments

Iron Age Man in Walkern

Published in the November 1974 Walkern Journal, by Norma Jackson

First thought to be a meteorite, a curious piece of rock, discovered by Mr Speirs of Greenways, in a field behind the School turned out to be a piece of slag from a primitive Iron Age smelters furnace. The rock, roughly a rectangular block and extremely heavy, appeared to have been turned up by a plough.

Most of the surface is of a dark rough substance but at one end is a green semi-transparent amorphous mass. The expert at the British Museum, to whom Mr Speirs took the object for identification, explained that a furnace such as that used by Iron Age Man (between 1000 BC and the birth of Christ) would have been unable to generate enough heat to extract the iron in metallic form. Instead, the metal would have emerged in an impure spongy mass and it is the residue or slag from this heating of the rock, which Mr Speirs found.

The glass-like substance at one end was also formed in the heating process. The interesting question arises as to the origin of the deposit.

There is evidence of Iron Age Settlements in Hertfordshire at Wheathampstead, Welwyn and Baldock and so it is possible that iron was being worked hereabouts, although the ore must have come from further afield.

Another theory is that the slag was brought south by the movement of glaciers and deposited as the climate improved and the ice receded.

Mr Speir’s find is at present in the Infant Room at the School, where it has excited much interest. [Does anyone have information on where the find is now?]

More Iron Age finds:

A late Iron Age pit and pottery sherds, dating from the 1st century AD, were found during archaeological surveys of the site for Yew Tree Close. The survey said that ‘given the lack of prehistoric remains within the area this late Iron Age to early Roman feature is therefore relatively significant.

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