Ferrous metallurgy from the Bir Massouda metallurgical precinct at Phoenician and Punic Carthage and the beginning of the North African Iron Age

Publication date: July 2016
Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 71
Author(s): Brett Kaufman, Roald Docter, Christian Fischer, Fethi Chelbi, Boutheina Maraoui Telmini
Excavations of the Phoenician and Punic layers at the site of Bir Massouda in Carthage have provided evidence for ferrous metallurgical activity spanning several centuries. Archaeometallurgical analyses of slagged tuyères, slag, and alloys using optical microscopy, portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), and variable pressure scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (VPSEM-EDS) show that Carthaginian smiths were conducting primary smithing and forging of wrought iron and steel. Although the majority of slag specimens are remnant from ferrous production, a few select finds are from bronze recycling. The corpus represents the earliest known ferrous metallurgy in North Africa. As a Phoenician colony then later as an independent imperial metropolis, Carthage specialized in centrally organized ferrous technology at the fringes of the settlement in areas such as Bir Massouda and the Byrsa Hill from before 700 to 146 BC.