Combining isotope ratios for provenancing Viking Age iron artefacts in the British Isles: a pilot study

Harding, Stephen E.; Jones, Chas; Evans, Jane; Milot, Jean; Cutajar, Michelle; Bailey, Elizabeth; Pashley, Vanessa; Wagner, Doris; Halkon, Peter; Pearce, Mark. 2023 Combining isotope ratios for provenancing Viking Age iron artefacts in the British Isles: a pilot study. RSC Advances, 13 (44). 31292-31302.

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Stable and radiogenic isotope analysis – particularly using lead isotope analysis (LIA) – has previously been shown to be a useful tool for the provenancing of ancient metal artefacts of silver and copper and its alloys, but less progress has been made in the provenancing of iron artefacts, despite their importance and frequency in the archaeological record. In this pilot study we investigate for the first time the possibilities of iron isotope analysis in combination with trace strontium isotope analysis and LIA for the provenancing of iron objects believed to be from the Viking Age in the British Isles. Previous studies have shown that analysis of each of these isotopes can contribute to provenancing iron artefacts, but they are not individually resolutory. In this proof-of-concept study, we examine the Fe, Sr and Pb isotopes of 7 artefacts believed to derive from the Viking Age: 3 from Meols – a former Viking seaport on Wirral and 4 samples from the probable location of the AD 1066 Battle of Fulford in North Yorkshire. We also examine an additional artefact of unknown antiquity from Bebington Heath – a possible location of the AD 937 Battle of Brunanburh. Although the pilot data set is too small to make definitive conclusions, it has paved the way for a fuller study involving 100 samples (including 30 from the former Viking camp of Torksey, Lincolnshire) funded by the NEIF fund of the UK National Environmental Research Council. The high range of 87Sr/86Sr values in the present data set of 8 is beyond what would be expected for bog iron (with a cut-off ∼ 0.709) and suggests that mined ore was being used, a preliminary conclusion supported by the narrow range of Fe isotope data.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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ISSN: 2046-2069
Date made live: 17 Jan 2024 16:19 +0 (UTC)

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