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Inchtuthill, an unbelievable horde of Roman nails

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So, I ran across something interesting today in an old historical engineering book by Le Sprague de Camp. Nowaday's he's known mostly as a comical fantasy writer, but he based a lot of his sci fi/fantasy on history and historical engineering.

 

Turns out the Romans in Inchtuthill, Scotland set up a fort in about 82 or so while they were fighting the locals. Only occupied for seven years or so, but before they left, somebody did a LOT of busywork. I've painted rocks and pulled weeds in my Army days, but these guys....somebody put them to work making nails. A lot of nails. No. Still more than you're thinking.

 

An archaeologist is digging around in the early 60s and finds a rusty spot. Goes down a little ways, and finds some iron tires. Goes down a little more and finds a rusted sheet of nails. Goes down still more and finds.....875,000 iron objects. Mostly nails that look almost brand new. Seven tons for just the nails alone, they gave tons (literally?) away to museums and scrapped the rest at a Glasgow steel works!

 

Thought that most of you having made a nail or two might find the amount of effort to make the wrought iron and work it into nails interesting.

 

 

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kinda have to wonder just how much of it was forks knives plows and armour gathered from the locals.  no small amount of work either way though

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That makes me wonder how many people there were occupying that fort at the time and also the weight to person ratio of iron goods that would be. 

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Remember the legions were often a lot closer to the Corps of Engineers in that they built a lot of stuff as part of their service

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Could it be that they've found local ore deposits and decided to mass produce nails there to send back to Rome or _wherever_ ? 

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I wish they would have called me before scrapping all those nails.  I'd have paid twice the scrap rate and started selling them on ebay!

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Hmmm. I've made 23 nails now. All in a tobacco tin. I have a way to go.

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It's apparantly one of the few camps they've found that didn't have something built over the top of it. They systematically trashed everything they could before they went though. Even smashed all the pottery into bits no more that a couple of inches long.

 

I find it funny that they hid em to keep it out of the hands of the natives, and the natives finally got most of them.....eventually.

 

Entirely possible they intended to send them back. But as anyone who's been military knows, logistics.....well..nuff said. Britain was definitely a historical source of ore, as well as tin. I've read it's not the best stuff as it tends to have nasty levels of phosphorus.

 

Dunno, you hear historical accounts about the Celts having to step on swords to straighten them. But that seems unlikely to be the case overall, as it, as most iron was usually reserved for the ones what could afford them, and who wants to pay premium for a sword that gets banged up the first time you use it?

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You also read historical accounts of the Romans extolling the quality of the swords the Celts used as being superior to Roman ones.

 

If you are interested in the metallurgy of celtic swords may I commend to your attention Radomir Pleiner's "The Celtic Sword"

 

Please note that phosphorus is a hardening element and while it makes the forging of steels containing it more difficult it also makes them harder and thus was preferentially used for edges in early Northern European iron swords.

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Absolutely interested......as soon as I can bring myself to part with an anvil to afford it. Do you think they'd hold my mousehole as collateral until I returned it? Sigh.......stuck with Polybius for now.

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I am greatly surprised that your local public library does not have ILL, from small town rural NM I can borrow books from over 90 different libraries in our system including a dozen universities.  I can easily get books that I've had a 10 year standing search on Amazon for with no luck! ILL is the only way to research stuff if you are not in a major city *and* it allows you to look over books *bef0re* deciding to eat beans and rice for a couple of months and buying your own copy

 

BTW you may also be interested in "The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tools and Edged Weapons (British Archaeological Reports (BAR))"  Tylecote and Gilmour

 

When I got my copy of Pleiner's book it was not that expensive, only about US$90 as I recall---much cheaper than "The Knight and the Blast Furnace"  Williams, (probably the best modern research on the metallurgy of European Armour!)

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I will try the ILL, certainly, but I'm not optimistic. Last 3 times I've tried, I've failed to get books that were in the same county system at another library and not even checked out! It's a great idea, and one I should have thought of; just our library(s) here is(are) sub-optimal. Maybe if I play the squeaky wheel?

 

Searched a couple of spots internetwise, found it for $350 on amazon. If it's the one I think, I saw the Tylecote and Gilmour when I was stationed in ummm, dang it, Ft. Hood? Ft Huachuca? Don't remember. But I was just beginning to play with metal at the time and a lot of it was well over my head. I'll have to try it again now. Thank you for the tips.

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I found it funny that a book I was ILLing was available 60 miles away but instead they sent me a copy from over 200 miles away.  Still I got the book, and as I mentioned when you are going to be blowing your budget you really want to be sure that a book is worth it *before* you buy it.

 

I saw the Celtic Sword in a tent selling books at Pennsic one year, it was marked down but still out of my budget; then my Sister told me that "Mom gave me some money to buy you a present that you would like..."   (The Knight and the Blast Furnace was a gift my my wife)

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