Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 555–565 | Cite as

Iron technology and medieval nomadic communities of East Mongolia

  • Jang-Sik ParkEmail author
  • William Honeychurch
  • Amartuvshin Chunag
Original Paper


Numerous iron objects from the medieval sites in Mongolia were metallographically examined for a comparative study intending to probe indigenous and foreign impacts on the establishment of local iron tradition. The artifact assemblage includes iron and cast iron objects recovered during the recent Mongol-American joint expedition to sites in the eastern part of Mongolia. Cast iron objects, dominating the assemblage, were mostly in the form of small fragments or square bars, which would be of little value if they were to be used for casting. However, their greatly varying microstructures reveal evidence of various small-scale steelmaking processes involving cast iron. This observation suggests that most of them were prepared as a practical means to procure steel, a highly valued commodity particularly among nomadic communities. In contrast, other iron objects with microstructures characteristic of inferior bloomery products constituted only a minor part of the assemblage. We discuss the results of our analysis from a comparative perspective and propose that this unique ironworking tradition discovered in eastern Mongolia reflects the distinctive geographical and sociopolitical background of the nomadic groups and periods concerned.


Mongolian empire Iron technology Cast iron Steel Nomadic communities 



The DMS project would not have been possible without the generous collaboration of the Institute of History and Archeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences. The analysis and research presented was financially supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017R1A2B4002082) and by the US National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant RZ-249831-16). We express our sincere gratitude to the families in Delgerkhaan Uul whose hospitality and knowledge help us immensely.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jang-Sik Park
    • 1
    Email author
  • William Honeychurch
    • 2
  • Amartuvshin Chunag
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Materials Science and EngineeringHongik UniversityJochiwonSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Institute of History and ArchaeologyMongolian Academy of SciencesUlaanbaatarMongolia

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