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Far from Barbaric: Re-assessing the Sophistication of Merovingian Metalworking

Far from Barbaric: Re-assessing the Sophistication of Merovingian Metalworking

By Robert M. Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Samuel K. Nash

JOM, Vol. 57:8 (2005)

Abstract: The demise of the Roman Empire during the mid-fifth century A.D. resulted in the rise of one of Europe’s longest ruling families of the Middle Ages: the Merovingians. The Merovingian dynasty lasted from the mid-fifth to the mid-eighth centuries A.D. and at its height controlled states that stretched across France, Belgium, Germany west of the Rhineland, and most of Switzerland. Archaeometallurgists used to believe that the state of metalworking technology declined after the demise of the Roman Empire. To assess the level of sophistication of metalworking during this period, a set of 36 iron tools and weapons were metallurgically sampled and examined. For comparison, 11 Iron Age, three Roman, and four medieval iron artifacts from the same region were also sampled.

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