Given the high level of technological sophistication involved in iron smelting, a common assumption held is that small mobile communities of the Mongolian steppe relied on trade with larger, settled, manufacturing centers for the acquisition of iron objects. Recent archaeological investigations in Mongolia suggest, however, that mobile pastoralist households and communities maintained a very active iron production industry. Although mounting evidence clearly points to the presence of household and community-based production, less is known about the level of technology employed by cottage industry scale manufacturers. In this paper we present the findings from excavations of mobile pastoralist dwellings and furnaces from sites in the Tarvagatai Valley of north-central Mongolia dating between 400 BC –AD 1300 that include a small assemblage of iron and iron-related objects bearing evidence of bloomery production. This material not only helps further substantiate that mobile communities in Mongolia had their own means of metal production but also indicates the innovative implementation of an existing technique at a scale previously deemed too small to be practical except in marginal steppe environments.
Asian Archaeology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 15, 2020