New York City / USA
|Mr. Föll goes to the Metropolitan|
|The Metropolitan is one of my favorite museums and I try to visit it whenever I hit NYC. Marvelous stuff is on display, and you will always get your money's worth when going there. Let me state right at the beginning that it has wonderful Internet pages with pictures and information to about every object they own, not to mention a zillion books and magazines about their stuff. This is not a matter of course. Other major museums have practically nothing in both categories right now (2015)|
|However, as far as "old metals" are concerned, some improvements are possible. I won't go into much detail but just give a few examples; first from an Aug. 2011 visit.|
|So what is it? Copper or bronze? One might guess
that "Early Bronze II-III" refers to some part of the "bronze
age". Some visitors might be aware of that, but very few will be familiar
with that specific fine-tuning of "the ages". Not to mention that
the early bronze age divisions for the middle east, according to wikipedia, are
Early bronze age (EBA): 3300 - 2100
EBA I: 3300 - 3000
EBA II: 3000 - 2700
EBA III: 2700 - 2200
EBA IV: 2200 - 2100
The time slot given of 2400 - 2000 then would be III - IV.
|More to the point: Was this "wagon drawn by bulls" cast or banged into shape with a hammer? Looks like the latter to me, with individual parts joined by some hammer-welding at medium temperatures. If so, why wasn't it cast? The technology should have existed in 2400 BC. How do we know those animals are bulls and not cows or oxen?|
|Here is a "Luristan sword", an extremely remarkable object with respect to early iron. When I wrote what follows I wasn't aware of just how remarkable:|
|While it is possible that a good
smith could have forged the handle of this
sword, it does look like it was cast.
If it was forged, i.e. made by hammering, the smiths' in Luristan (wherever that is) must have been ahead of others by half a millennia or so. If it was cast, what is it? Certainly not iron or steel, at best cast-iron. Did the old Luristanis have a cast-iron technology? Could it be that the handle is actually some bronze?
|Lots of questions come up when one wanders through the (marvellous, certainly!) exhibition. Maybe the book shop helps, where one could find the extensive descriptions in some book relating to the exhibition?|
|Well, maybe. I don't know because there are
hundreds of books. It simply takes to much time to find out if the answers to
one's questions could be found in one of them.
But we are living in modern times, so there is always the Internet.
I have to hand it to the Metropolitan. It has wonderful Internet pages. So let's see what we can find out about early metal objects in the Metropolitan.
|Here is what you find in the Internet about the objects from above (I changed the size of the pictures somewhat and edited the second one):|
|This is better - but not yet what one would have hoped for. Some other objects, however, are much better described in the Internet than in the exhibition.|
|Prof. Dr. Föll Writes to the Metropolitan|
|I do not only visit the Metropolitan whenever I'm in NYC; I (via my wife) have some kind of membership and receive some periodicals on a regular base. In the "Bulletin" of the Metropolitan from fall 2010 I found a picture and a description of this:|
|Now that is interesting. Iron from around or even
before 2000 BC? Which part of the figure is iron? Was it cast or hammered?
The main text not shown here doesn't offer any information to these question. And what the f--- is chlorite? To me or anybody else with a minimum of chemistry knowledge, chlorite is the name for the anion ClO2, forming minerals like sodium chlorite (NaClO2), magnesium chlorite (Mg(ClO2)2), and so on. Wikipedia agrees.
|I decided to inquire and wrote a
letter, asking what to make of the
questions above. Eventually (those people are busy); I got an answer. The
questions I had were answered as follows:
|The conclusion is clear. They have a lot of good information about the objects they show. Well, big deal! That's what one would assume, of course. In case of doubt, they simply make up information (as we all do): it's meteoritic iron, man! As long as you don't allow somebody to check that claim, you run no risk.|
|Why the Metropolitan and most others museums refuse to give the proper information as far as they have it in the exhibits or in the Internet is beyond me. It would not take up more room than what they did write, especially if they leave off completely useless information.|
|The Tale Continues...|
|While O. Muscarella's book was not all that easy to get, my University librarians eventually managed to round up a copy. It's a big volume, full of many (black-white) pictures of mostly bronze objects. I couldn't find the Luristan sword at first because I looked in the wrong chapters but I did learn a lot of fascinating things from the book. Enough, actually to produce a whole module about iron swords from Luristan. I also give you the relevant pages as a direct quote.|
|However, my main question from above has still not be answered satisfactorily. O. Muscarella emphasizes that everything was forged and suggests that the intricate figures were obtained by swaging using "moulds". One could bang soft iron into a mould with a hammer of course, but I wonder what kind of mould would take that (at the high forging temperatures!) and how it was made.|
|Once again I conclude: The Metropolitan displays an object that is quite interesting from several points of view - and makes absolutely nothing out of that!|
|... and Continues|
|In July 2013 I made it once more to the Metropolitan. I wanted to take some more pictures, in particular of the Luristan sword. That didn't work out, instead I experienced my first GAB.|
|If you are a German, you know what a
GAU is: The
"Größter anzunehmender Unfall" or maximum credible accident for a nuclear power plant.
It is one of the best known acronyms in Germany and played a role in the
decision to abandon nuclear power for good.
In the same spirit, a GAB is the "Größter anzunehmender Blödsinn" or maximum credible idiocy. I ran into it quite unexpectedly when I entered the Metropolitan and wanted to check my rucksack containing some unopened bottles of red wine.
They wouldn't let me in!
"Sorry Sir, fighting terrorism, you know"! Unopened bottles of what is clearly red wine obviously constitutes a threat to the Nation of the Free. I had to toss about $ 100 worth of wine into the garbage can!
To add insult to injury, the Luristan sword I wanted to get pictures of - a wish that made me sacrifice my wine - was no longer on display. The display of ancient things had changed since I visited last (it got somewhat better but not yet really good).
| In order to get at least something out of this
expensive expedition ($25.- entrance fee + about $ 100.- for the wine), I went
to the picture exhibition, intend on increasing my collection of
Leda's and the swan.
They don't have one!
No more need to be said.
|... and Never Ends|
|Searching for something else I found this on the pages of the Louvre in Paris:|
|Looks familiar? The Louvre, however,
has far more to say about this kind of composite figure than the Metropolitan:
"Scarfaces" are anthropomorphic dragon-snakes
belonging to the mythology of central Asia, where they incarnated the hostile
forces of the underworld. Their power was controlled not by killing them but by
reducing them to silence by a slash across the right cheek. Thus dominated,
they could become benevolent".
The Louvre also remains vague about the iron: "The head is circled by a band of meteoritic iron and there is a small hole in the forehead for fitting horns".
The complete descriptions given by the two museums can be found here.
And here is yet another one. It's from the so-called Foroughi collection and now in a Teheran museum. Since only 4 scarfaces seem to be known, the three I give you here is a real treat!
And now I'm going to top myself: here is No. 4!. Even better: No. 5! And No. 6
A diect comparison of all 5 scarfaces can be found here.
Critical Museum Guide
Discussion of the "Cut Sword" Findings
Part 1 Basics about Scythians and Their Akinakai
Critical Museum Guide: Museums in Istanbul, Turkey
Museums in Paris
10.2 Making Iron 10.2.1 Early Iron
Leda and the Swan
Confusing the Issue
Sword Places: Luristan
Lee Sauder and Skip Williams Smelt Iron
Large Pictures chapter 11.4
11.1.3 The The Luristan Iron Sword
Antique Texts Concerning Crucible Steel
10.5.4 Making Steel Things
Copper Microstructure Tells It All
Large Pictures Chapter 11.6
11.6 Japanese Swords 1.6.1 The Myth and the History of the Japanese Sword
Scythian Special Large Pictures
Large Pictures - Chapter 11.1
Early Iron Making Empires in the Middle East / Mediterranean
Iron in China
First Iron Swords
Copper: When and Where?
Large Pictures I
Some Additional Pictures; chapter 10.1
Large Pictures II
Large Pictures III
The Luristan Project - Results from Cut Swords
The Luristan Project - Results from Cut Swords Part 2
The Luristan Project - Large Pictures of Cut Sword
Master of Animals Finials from Luristan
The Luristan Project - Literature Review
The Luristan Project - Results from Cut Swords
Master of Animals
Literature to "Scythian Special"
The Luristan Project - Results
Large Pictures V
Large Pictures III
Large Pictures Chapter 12.2
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)