Dr Gillian Juleff

Research interests

Research Interests

My current research interests extend from Asia and the Indian Ocean to Southwest Britain and are underpinned by the thesis that metallurgy and the possession of metallurgical knowhow is one of the central drivers of cultural change and that understanding the development of metallurgy is a route to elucidating complex social dynamics.


UK-based research

Exmoor Iron (ExFe)

Exmoor Iron is a multi-disciplinary, multi-period, multi-site exploration of the impact of past iron production on the environmental and cultural landscapes of Exmoor. The fieldwork component of the project took place between 2002 and 2006 and was funded by English Heritage and was run in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority (http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/) and the National Trust at Holnicote (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holnicote-estate/ ). Excavations took place on four large iron smelting sites, a mining site and a woodland charcoal-burning platform. The sites span from the late Iron Age/Romano-British period to the post-medieval and witness a continuum in exploitation of high-grade local iron ores, which extends into the 19th and early 20th centuries. The annual fieldwork seasons are described in a series of newsletters (see examples here and here). Fieldwork is now complete and the project is in its analysis and interpretation phase.


Early mining in Southwest Britain

One of the sites excavated during fieldwork for Exmoor Iron was the multi-period iron ore mining site known as Roman Lode. High on open moorland above Simonsbath, the site comprises an openwork trench extending over 600m.  An RCHME earthwork survey of the trench and spoil dumps lining either side revealed an area of small ‘hummock and hollow’ terrain at one extreme of the trench. Geophysical survey and small-scale excavation by Exmoor Iron uncovered evidence for shallow pit mining. Unexpectedly, charcoal from a small burnt hearth feature stratigraphically below the mining pits gave radiocarbon dates in the Early Bronze Age. A first paper on these interesting discoveries by myself and fellow Exmoor Iron researcher, Lee Bray, discusses the possibility that Roman Lode was exploited for copper long before if became an iron mine.


Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Using data from my original Sri Lankan research in the 1990’s I have collaborated with colleagues in the Engineering department at Exeter to explore the novel application of CFD to archaeometallurgy. In a first paper on the subject in JAS we used CFD to model the airflows and pressures through our experimental monsoon wind-powered furnaces. Our experience suggests the CFD has significant potential as a tool to help model and understand ancient pyrotechnologies.


Research in Sri Lanka, India, South and East Asia

My long term research involvement in the development of ferrous metallurgy in Sri Lanka and South Asia continues through collaborative projects with international institutions and colleagues.


Monsoon Steel

From its origins as the Samanalawewa Archaeological Project in the late 1980’s, Monsoon Steel continues to act as an umbrella under which a number of different research and related activities have taken place. Funding from the Exeter’s Annual Fund has enabled two seasons of fieldwork in Sri Lanka in 2007 and 2008. In 2007 a further series of experimental smelts was carried out to consolidate and extend the original fieldwork of the 1990’s, first published as a cover article in the journal Nature. The Exeter student team that travelled to Sri Lanka included undergraduates from both the archaeology and engineering departments.

As a result of the success of the 2007 experiments a further student team visited Sri Lanka in 2008 to construct a permanent museum display based on the project at the Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum at Koggala, on the south coast of the island. Mrs Rupa Wickramasinghe, daughter of Martin Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka’s leading early 20th century writer, had previously, unbeknownst to me, produced an illustrated comic book for children telling the story of my discoveries in Sri Lanka and it was at the eventual meeting with Rupa that the idea for a life-size reconstruction of the furnace with explanatory display posters in English, Sinhala and Tamil was born.

In 2013, in collaboration with Dr Premala Sivaprakasapillai Sivasegaram and the Institution of Engineers of Sri Lanka (http://www.iesl.lk/), a further full-scale model of a wind-powered furnace with an accompanying animated video was put on permanent display in the National Museum in Colombo. This wind-powered smelting technology is one of five examples of ancient Sri Lankan technology selected for a new gallery on the engineering heritage of the island.

Also in 2013, a further series of experimental smelts were conducted in collaboration with the IESL and sponsored by Colombo Dockyard Plc (http://www.cdl.lk/). The aim of the new smelts was to demonstrate the technology for local engineers, metallurgists and technologists.


Linear Furnaces and pan-Asian traditions

The long range transmission of the Sri Lankan technological traditions of iron smelting and steel-making, in particular the development of linear furnaces, is now the focus of a new phase of research. Potential but hitherto unrecognised connections between Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Sarawak and, most significantly, Japan, have been identified in a paper in World Archaeology. Careful analysis and interpretation of the evidence has indicated strong similarities between the wind-powered furnaces of Sri Lanka and the world famous tatara furnace of Japan, in which the steel for Samurai swords was made. The models for possible transmission of technology across Asia have been well received in Asia and new collaborations with colleagues in Japan have been forged following a visit there to present my results to the Iron and Steel Institute of Japan and to meet the last practising tatara-master.


Pioneering Metallurgy: origins of steel-making in the southern Indian subcontinent

In 2008 I was awarded a UKIERI (UK India Education and Research Initiative) grant for a new research project in collaboration with colleagues at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore. This aim of the project is to investigate the field evidence for early iron and steel production in southern India. It takes its methodological approach from my fieldwork in Sri Lanka and will extend the research to lab-based metallurgical analysis of artefacts and materials associated with production. Field survey began in early 2010 and concentrated on the four districts that make up Northern Telangana, which was then within the state of Andhra Pradesh but is now part of the new state of Telangana. This area is known for its large numbers of both iron smelting and crucible steel-making sites. Crucible steel is often better known as wootz steel and is the steel of Indian and Early Islamic weapons.

An interim report on the survey has been published and research in the area continues through funding support from the Stein Arnold Exploration Fund and an ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research) grant for my collaborators Dr Smriti Haricharan and Dr S Jaikishan. The work is aso continuing through the Exeter-NIAS PhD projects of Brice Girbal and Tathagata Neogi.

Research collaborations

In recent years I have developed research collaboration with a wide range of scholars and institutions in the UK and in Asia.

My work on Monsoon Steel has resulted in interesting cross-disciplinary collaboration with specialists in fluid dynamics (Exeter) and engineering (Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka) and power generation (Ceylon Electricity Board) as well archaeologists in Sri Lanka (Archaeological Survey Department of Sri Lanka and the University of Kelaniya).

In India I collaborate with colleagues at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, including Professor Sharada Srinivasan, Dr Smriti Haricharan and Dr S. Jaikishan.

Further afield my work on the linear furnaces of Asia has helped to build collaboration with colleagues in Japan, in particular Professor Nagata of Tokyo University of the Arts and Professor Murakami of the Research Centre for Ancient East Asian Iron Culture, Ehime University.

In the UK I work closely with Dr Chris Carey (Brighton University) and Dr Lee Bray (Exmoor National Park Authority) on research related to Exmoor.