The Sword Cycle

The ability to transform materials can have an almost magical quality.  There is great skill to be able to source metalliferous ores, smelt them to produce metal and then cast to produce complex objects.

Molten SwordNew SwordWhen a Bronze sword was removed from its, typically clay, mould…

Cast Swordits edges were trimmed, sharpened and blade polished.

A wooden hilt and pommel may have been attached.

Living SwordIf Bronze Age metalwork broke (or was no longer desirable) it could readily be recycled.

Melted down and recast in a different mould.

Fiery SwordIf such objects are not repaired, reused or recycled, they can potentially drop out of the cycle, found by archaeologists, corroded green with time.

Lost SwordWhen recovered properly another cycle of study and learning commences.

Fragments conserved, analysed…

Melted Sword…reassembled and interpreted.


The Bronze Sword cycle above relates to a Wilburton type sword,  a type in production some time around c 1000 to 900 BC.  About this time Iron production commenced and cycles of production and recycling which may have taken place in the United Kingdom for about 1500 years before were challenged by new powers.

During Burning the Circle 2014 the Bronze sword was placed on the central ‘pyre’ structures which burned fiercely for nearly four hours, and then smouldered to nothing during the remainder of the night.  The broken and fragmented remains of the sword were excavated the next morning, amongst the broken parts were hundreds of small spheres of Bronze.  These spheres indicate that, in the heart of the fire temperatures reached c 950 degrees centigrade, at which point parts of the sword turned liquid.

All images are of activities taking place at Burning The Circle, apart from the hafted polished sword which has been kindly provided by Neil Burridge.



Bronze Inspired Creativity

CinBA-conference-bannerCreativity in the Bronze Age, and contemporary responses to it, will be explored at an important conference next year at the University of Cambridge: more details can be found on the CinBA Conference-Flyer.  The conference is part of an ongoing research project ‘Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe’ (CinBA), further details of which can be found at the CinBA project website.  I would certainly recommend exploring the website of this fascinating and innovative research project.

One striking example of the way in which contemporary responses to the Bronze Age have been addressed by the project was through engaging with contemporary artists who have explored aspects of Bronze Age material culture through a variety of mediums.  Please have a look at the great example of ceramics produced by students who worked on the project, as part of Santorini Biennale of Arts 2012, which can be seen in an exhibition catalogue.   Another fantastic example of works inspired by knowledge of the Bronze Age by contemporary craft students can also be viewed in a booklet.

Importantly the research seeks to develop practices which go beyond the ‘current state of the art’ and its results may have some exciting impacts, such as providing

‘the basis for new types of heritage experiences in which creative potentials of objects are more imaginatively explored, as well as offering inspiration and new roles for the contemporary craft sector.’

A project which is well worth watching for its results.

The CinBA project was one of nine funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) researching aspects of creativity.

I wonder what the other eight projects are researching ?

Terre Des Hommes

I wasn’t able to walk within this landscape…

Bali - designed by Liz Eeuwesas it is a fabulous rug designed by Liz Eeuwes depicting the Balinese landscape.

She has designed two collections of handmade rugs.  The first in 2009 was entitled Landscapes and comprises three rugs portraying aerial views of landscapes, together which show the striking difference in field systems and settlement patterns through landscapes from Netherlands, Bali and Scotland.

Strathmore / Kansas by Liz Eeuwes

The second collection Terre Des Hommes continues to explore landscapes but through more abstract designs inspired by the ways in which landscapes are evoked through storytelling.

More thoughts about the designer’s inspirations from landscapes, storytelling and carving can be found at the Eeuwes website.  It would be wonderful to experience one of these landscapes everyday but, they are so beautiful, I do not know if I could bring myself to walk upon them…

They are however on display till the 14th of December at South Block.

Heritage Craft Skills

Many of our heritage sites appear timeless.  Historic buildings are usually key components of the character of our streetscapes but, as they are so familiar, usually go unnoticed.  Often, we only really pay attention when they are destroyed and a gap site is presented: the missing tooth in the smile !

I always take time when I am in York to pause and watch the stone masons working at the side of the York Minster in the Stoneyard.  The high level of their skills is apparent in the finished pieces which sit inside the yard before being raised up onto the Minster.  Some of the stone components of the Minster have been standing for about 800 years: so the ravages of time inevitably begin to take its toll.  However, it is not just wind and rain which can damage stone, the Minster has also been subject to major fires in 1840 and 1984.

The work of the stonemasons is currently part of a major conservation and restoration project York Minster Revealed.  As well as the work of the stonemasons, there is also a programme of stained glass conservation being undertaken by York Glaziers Trust. Importantly, the project is allowing for an expansion in training in the skills in working stone and stained glass on historic buildings.

Without constant maintenance and conservation, to ensure that they will be there for future generations to appreciate and enjoy using them, we easily lose the heritage assets which make our towns and landscapes distinct.  But conserving our heritage is more than simply protecting the physical remains of the past, it is also the maintenance of understanding and skills required for the future.