Knives are particularly useful for archaeometallurgy studies because they are present in a range of archaeological contexts, are composite artefacts using more than one type of iron alloy and can provide a wealth of technological data. My undergraduate research has shown that there appear to be dramatic differences between the manufacturing methods and quality of metals used in settlements and cemeteries (both urban and rural), and also changes in manufacture techniques over time. In addition the review paper demonstrated the paucity of archaeometallurgical investigations of this vital commodity and the importance of reviewing and re-assessing past studies, in light of new research.
In the past archaeometallurgical studies carried out in the 1980s and 1990s of iron knives have taken much from archaeology but have given little in return. Therefore the main aim of the PhD research was to collate these studies and to increase the sample size, by adding knives from new sites which have been neglected by past studies. Knives from these sites were selected based on non destructive x-radiograph analysis and then sections taken for both metallography and chemical analysis. The data was then used in conjunction with the Early Medieval archaeological record to answer questions about standardisation, specialisation, skill of the smithy, scale of manufacture and distribution of iron artefacts.