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Nanotechnology in ancient Damascus

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That is an interesting site all together. I don't know if I can go along with calling something a tech if its serendipitous rather than designed and engineered. Just because a particular method produces  nanostructure I don't see how you can call it nanotech. All teh smiths cared about was high quality blades and had a way to produce them.

 

Seriously, there've been nanothingies since before life began heck I think the superdense pre -big bang whatchacallit would've been nanotechnology by one definition. If you've ever wiped the soot out of a slam chimney you've handled buckyballs, nanotubes and other similar Buckminster Fullerines.

 

What I think of nanotech is perfomed by the folk who deliberately manufacture carbon nanotube as part of graphite composites. A technology that happens to have nanotube associated with or in it but not deliberately or even knowingly isn't my definition of nanotech.

 

Of course that's just my opinion I could be wrong.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

Thank you for posting the link.

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I think you're absolutely correct, Frosty. 'Nanotechnology' is one thing, the deliberate application of knowledge on a minute scale. I just thought it was awesome that this 'ancient' technology could produce similar results and only recently has that been discovered.

I also thought the trace amount of things like milkweed was interesting. Although I don't know that it would have anything to do with the intendedend result, it's in there. I wonder if by fluke, or by design? I am also curious if they only scanned one object, or several different specimens ofvarying age and origin.

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 Spent quite some time reading on the site, till I had to take a dog to class that is and  it IS fascinating but I like archaeology anyway.

 

I recall an article from years ago where archaeological evidence showed iron was being blistered into steel and apricot pits were included in the crucible. Apricot or any of the cherry family have an almost dangerous level of hydrogen cyanide in the pits. The crucible remains also contained bone and shell, all of which improve the quality of steel. Think of how long blacksmiths experimented and kept notes to come up with a "formula" and technique to make good steel.

 

As a non topic aside. Haephestus the Greek blacksmith god was the ONLY greek god who worked.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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So do those additions actually make a difference to the steel? I mean, I would think they would, but would it be perceptible?

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Well, If I remember correctly,  I've read that charcoal, charred bone, charred leather were often mixed with sand in a metal box for heat treating when you didn't want to cook the carbon out of the steel and when even heating was absolutely required.  They were also used for case hardening, often with the box method minus the sand, as well as Potassium Cyanide, which I guess would go along with Hydrogen Cyanide, as they both have the -Cyanide ion, which is carbon and nitrogen.  So yeah, all carburizing agents.  I would leave the Cyanide alone though.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide

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Jerome: What you're describing is case hardening. Crucible or blister steel making are different but require similar additives.

 

Yes, the additives make a real difference or they wouldn't do it. any "magic" would be show for the audience or spies and pure stagecraft. The real things were undoubtedly very closely kept secrets.

 

I've read quite a few "Secrets of steel making" articles and stories over the years and don't know how much credence to give them. What catches my eye now is raw data or well founded hypotheses. Analyzing samples from ancient crucibles and furnaces of known steel making cultures I consider possibly true.

 

For instance about the time Damascus blades stopped being made, steels stopped containing the traces of vanadium in in useful amounts and the iron ore digs containing vanadium seemed to play out. The archaeological evidence for this is pretty good, the timing is about right and it explains everything in about as simple a manner as possible. This I consider a plausible answer.

 

Then there are things like cyanide. I'm no metallurgist beyond what I've picked up in life,ever studied it. I don't THINK cyanide is an alloying element that strengthens steel but it is really reactive stuff so it may be just the thing to catalyze other elements in useful ways. Bone contains calcium a fluxing agent, carbon and hydrogen cyanide. Any burning flesh gives off hydrogen cyanide and bone contains collagen a very flesh like stuff.

 

Just remember this is just me taking one of my drunken bumble bee brain rambles. I've been thinking about it a long time, doesn't mean anything but I think about it every time some new discovery comes to light. I keep what fits and file what doesn't.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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  I found that book that I was read that stuff in.  Forge Practice and the Heat Treatment of Steel, by John Lord Bacon, one of the many free books I've downloaded off of google books.  I appears that the first bit I was referring to is what he called "pack hardening" which he seems to apply to steel.   He refers to the same process as "case hardening", though he seemed to only apply that name to wrought iron.

  It's the carbon in the cyanide ion that gets baked into the steel.  They used to use straight Potassium Cyanide as a case hardener for small jobs, or they would make a molten bath of it and then dip the work into it.  This book goes into some depth about the whole process.  It took me a week to read it the first time, and even then I felt my brain oozing out of my ears from overloading the central processor.  I should probably reread it, as I have a feeling a lot of it went over my head.

   Google books has a lot of old blacksmithing books for free.  They all pretty much seem to say the same things too, although with different little details here and there.  Some of the stuff I read does not match what I've seen though.  One particular old army manual comes to mind.  Seems like a smith was trying to tell an inattentive private what to write.

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Want to know exhaustive information on the subject
 

The Cementation of Iron and Steel
Dr Fedeilco Glolite Joseph W Richards Charles A Roullier

 
is the book for you (a copy at ABEBooks.com for $9 shipped)

 

Including experiments on carbon migration without CO, using diamond as the carbon donor, etc.

 

 

Note the Mercury was the messenger of the gods and might be considered a working guy too

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Indeed...a good book.....a bit dry though...not a real page turner unless you like that sort of thing.

I'm teaching a class on blister/shear steel along with a few other things next week.

 

Peach pits also work.

 

Ric

Want to know exhaustive information on the subject
 

The Cementation of Iron and Steel
Dr Fedeilco Glolite Joseph W Richards Charles A Roullier

 

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Interesting discussion. One of the things I like about the ancient metal workers was that they turned metal working into a religion and as long as they followed the proscribed method of worship everything usually turned out OK, it's when they blasphemed that things went bad and sometimes great strides in metallurgy happened. Maybe it just wasn't the ore body collapse but other factors included that caused the "secrete" of true Damascus steel to be lost.

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Interesting discussion. One of the things I like about the ancient metal workers was that they turned metal working into a religion and as long as they followed the proscribed method of worship everything usually turned out OK, it's when they blasphemed that things went bad and sometimes great strides in metallurgy happened. Maybe it just wasn't the ore body collapse but other factors included that caused the "secrete" of true Damascus steel to be lost.

 

I don't think this is likely. Because customers would still have demanded good steel.

As soon as the 'religion' turned out crap steel, the customers would provide enough feedback.

People wouldn't turn away from high quality steel in favor of mild steel steel just because of theology issues.

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