Paul Craddock Janet Lang


The scientifi c or technical authentication of iron artefacts has not attracted a great deal of attention although there are some notable forgeries. Scientifi c examination of Charles Dawson’s little iron statuette and another little fi gure found more recently at the Roman iron smelting site at Beauport Park, Sussex, has shown both to be of coal- or coke-smelted grey cast iron. The sulphur and manganese contents of the Dawson statuette strongly suggest that it is Victorian. It had also been treated with potassium dichromate, as were all the fi nds from Piltdown, thereby linking the actual forgery process fi rmly with Dawson. The other figure is more complex but still relatively recent. Iron that does not contain evidence of smelting with fossil fuels can be very diffi cult to date or authenticate, and some of the problems with the direct dating of iron by radiocarbon dating, or by metallographic structure are discussed here. Other examples of grey cast iron have been reported from several Romano-British sites. Consideration of their composition and archaeological context suggests that most are probably intrusive, but some could be evidence of experiments to smelt iron using coal in the Roman period.


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How to Cite
Charles Dawson’s cast-iron statuette: the authentication of iron antiquities and possible coal-smelting of iron in Roman Britain. (2021). Historical Metallurgy, 39(1), 32-44.