The ubiquitous presence of bloomery mounds in the Scottish Highlands and the speed of their destruction by forestry, agriculture and animal husbandry, combined with the limited understanding of the industry that produced them, has stimulated a one-year pilot investigation aimed at the development of a methodology for their study and means of preservation. Five disciplines (archaeology,
history, geology, geophysics and archaeometallurgy) provided the foundations of three separate phases of activity to include (a) the evaluation of documentary sources, (b) the assessment of the mounds and their immediate natural environment by geological, geophysical and archaeological means of prospection, and (c) the scientific examination of potential ore sources and industrial waste. Three phases in bloomery making were revealed: traditional small-scale production, traditional large scale and advanced large-scale (probably making use of water power) at three different locations in the Highlands. Each displayed its own characteristic features, some uniquely Scottish. This paper presents the results of the work so far, and aims to put the Scottish Highland bloomeries back on the archaeometallurgical map. The work has been made possible through the generous support of Historic Scotland. This paper is the first of two parts; the second, to appear in a future issue of Historical Metallurgy, will be dedicated to Scottish iron ores and the mechanism of their formation, with particular reference to bog iron.
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