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Chromium crucible steel was first made in Persia

Alipour, R; Rehren, T; Martinón-Torres, M; (2021) Chromium crucible steel was first made in Persia. Journal of Archaeological Science , 127 , Article 105224. 10.1016/j.jas.2020.105224. Green open access

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Abstract

For more than a century, evidence for the production of crucible steel in Central and Southern Asia, prior to the European Industrial Revolution, has fascinated and challenged material scientists, historians and archaeologists. At the same time, chromium-alloyed stainless steel was developed in the early 20th century, building upon 19th century experiments with low chromium steel. Here we demonstrate new evidence of the intentional addition of chromium to steel nearly a millennium earlier, as part of the Persian crucible steel (pulad) tradition including the production of low-chromium crucible steel in early 2nd millennium CE Persia. We analysed archaeological finds from the 11th c. CE site of Chahak in Iran showing the intentional and regular addition of chromium mineral to the crucible charge, resulting in steel containing around 1 wt% chromium. A contemporaneous crucible steel flint striker held in the Tanavoli Collection is reported to also contain chromium, suggesting its origin from Chahak. We argue that the mysterious compound ‘rusakhtaj’ from Biruni's (10th – 11th c. CE) recipe for crucible steel making refers to the mineral chromite. Additional historical sources up to the mid-2nd millennium CE refer to crucible steel from Chahak as being particularly brittle, consistent with its increased phosphorus content.

Type: Article
Title: Chromium crucible steel was first made in Persia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2020.105224
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2020.105224
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Crucible steel, Persian steel, Chromium steel, Scanning Electron Microscope, Archaeometallurgy, Islamic archaeology, Manuscripts
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112057
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