1990 excavations of a large iron smelting site at Samanalawewa, Sri Lanka

First publication of the research results on the front cover of Nature

Experimental smelting in 2007

Detail of experimental smelting: slag tapping from front of furnace

Experimental smelting at night allows air flows to become visible

Monsoon Steel

Dr Gill Juleff

Monsoon Steel began as an impact survey directed by Dr Gill Juleff, of an area due for inundation by the Samanalawewa hydro-electric scheme in Sri Lanka. Archaeological excavations followed that revealed evidence of a large-scale iron and steel smelting industry of the first millennium AD using a technology that harnessed monsoon winds to power furnaces the design of which departed radically from known examples across the world.

Experiments in reconstructed furnaces established the veracity of the data and were published in Nature, and have led to a paradigm shift in archaeometallurgy.

A further series of experimental smelts were conducted in 2007 and in 2008 a full-scale modelof the furnace was built by Exeter students at the Martin Wickremasinghe Folk Museum at Koggala in southern Sri Lanka. Most recently the research has become part of a new permanent gallery on Ancient Technology designed and developed by the Institution of Engineers (IESL) in the National Museum, Colombo.

In collaboration with IESL, the Ceylon Electricty Board, engineers and industrialists in Sri Lanka, Dr Juleff carried out further smelts at Samanalawewa during the 2013 monsoon.