Art of the Metal Smith: Cultural Archaeologies of Technical Achievement (ARC2119)

StaffDr Gillian Juleff - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will develop an appreciation of both the aesthetic and technical supremacy of past metal-smiths. Iconic metal traditions often arise during periods of strong ideology and highly developed symbolism and the module will deepen understanding of the close relationship between individual artistic and technical skill and socio-political patronage. The aim is to demonstrate the role of broad-based approaches of cultural archaeology in gathering and analysing artefactual evidence.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. understand the range of data sources available to study metal artefacts and their cultural contexts
  • 2. know the principal technological processes used to make metals and manufacture artefacts from metals
  • 3. develop an understanding of the range of metal artefact traditions across the world
  • 4. demonstrate an understanding of the socio-cultural context of metal-working and the status and role of metalworkers in society

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate knowledge of contrasting archaeological, historical and aesthetical perspectives
  • 6. integrate interdisciplinary approaches to develop interpretations
  • 7. demonstrate comprehension of complex issues through essay-based coursework and themed research

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. demonstrate ability in locating, organising and digesting material to produce coherent written analysis
  • 9. contribute relevant discussion and comment during the two scheduled workshops
  • 10. organise work efficiently with respect to deadlines
  • 11. show initiative and originality in tackling and solving research problems

Syllabus plan

  •     The metallurgical process – understanding the technology

  •     Metal-smiths and society – caste, class and masters (ethnographies)

  •     Precious metals and prehistoric societies (Irish gold; Western Asian cultures)

  •     The arms race – weapons of iron and steel (Islamic arms; Japanese swords; European armour)

  •     Icons of religion and ideology – the bronze caster’s art (Chola; Benin; Renaissance Europe)

  •     Cultural summaries – China and the Far East

  •     Cultural summaries – the Indian subcontinent and Asia

  •     Cultural summaries – Africa and South America

  •     Cultural summaries - Europe

  •     Workshop 1 – identifying a metal tradition for research

  •     Workshop 2 – planning the research

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Learning & teaching147 x 2 hour lectures
Learning & teaching 42 x 2 hour workshops
Guided independent study132Independent and group study (readings and note preparation for circulation; guided group preparation for research; individual preparation for essays)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop participation - identifying theme2 hours9,11verbal
Workshop participation - planning research2 hours9,10,11verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay402000 words1-8, 10mark and written comments
Individual contribution to group research, online exhibition30Discreet element within group online e1-8, 10, 11mark and written comments
Individual contribution to group research301000 words written report1-8, 10, 11mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay 2000 words1-8, 10Refer/Defer period
Contribution to group research - online exhibitionPowerpoint slides for online exhibition1-8, 10-11Refer/Defer period
Individual contribution to group researchPowerpoint slides for online exhibition1-8, 10-11Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Allan, J. and Gilmour, B., 2000. Persian Steel: The Tanavoli Collection Oxford University Press

Ben-Amos, P.G. 1995, The Art of Benin, London, British Museum Press.

Carver, M. 1998, Sutton Hoo: burial ground of kings? University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hawthorne, J.G. and Smith, C.S. (trans) 1979, Theophilus On Divers Arts: the foremost medieval treatise on painting, glassmaking and metalwork, New York, Dover Publications

Hoover, H.C. and Hoover, L.H. (trans) 1950, Agricola De Re Metallica, New York, Dover Publications.

Leahy, K. and Bland, R. 2009, The Staffordshire Hoard, London, British Museum Press.

Peirce, I.G. 2002, Swords of the Viking age, Woodbridge, Boydell Press.

Schmidt, P.R., 1997. Iron technology in East Africa: symbolism, science and archaeology, Indiana University Press.

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2012

Last revision date

February 2012

Key words search

Iron, Artefacts, metal work