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I am attempting to recreate the scene inside a Roman garrison blacksmith shop in Jerusalem in Biblical Times for a religious production.. I assume the following is accurate: That the smith who made the spikes that held Crucifixion victims to the cross was a Roman soldier smith and not a Jewish smith. That the forge hearth was smaller than a medieval forge and that the bellows were two single acting round or oblong skin bellows, probably worked by a slave or an apprentice and that the anvil was quite small,maybe 4"x4", and set in a stump. Are my assumptions correct, or did I miss something? Any input would be appreciated.
You may want to read my article:

And do not forget to subsribe to Ancient Warfare Magazine :woot:

Oh, and a large nail is a large nail, so the difference between a "Roman" blacksmith and a "Jewish" blacksmith is absolute tripe, with all due respect. Please do not introduce political correctness, there is no way of knowing.
Excellent article, Robert. Very helpful. Thank you.
Glad to help!

By the way, unless your real name is indeed R.Rambo, forum rules dictate you should put at least your real surname in your signature. Enjoy the forum!
That's the real name.
I actually don't know of other Roman anvils, but I know we have one here at the ROM, and it is from Roman Judea:


The original records say the object is from "Bittir" together with a crowbar. This is probably modern Battir, or or more specifically the ancient fortress of Betar, modern Khirbet al-Yahud, the last stand of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135. I have no idea whether it was left by Bar Kochba's people, or Hadrian's, but as Robert pointed out, that possibly doesn't matter
Robert, it looks like other "Roman" anvils that I've seen or read about, though there are other types as well and much larger versions too.... I would think its intended for smaller work or possibly hammering the edges of tools on.... I would also think you need a hole in it to use a nail heading tool...

a couple of small Roman anvils from Haltern


A Blacksmith from the Museo della Civiltà Romana, Rome


Nail Heading Tool? Medieval, from the German Museum of Wire, Altena... yes they do have one :grin:

The T stake anvil seems to be the one with the hole in it to make nails. The block anvils I have seen so far do not have such a feature. And indeed, they are sometimes a good deal larger the the small anvil shown, at least they do aapear so on the icongraphy. Good find on that standing blacksmith, I was not aware of that picture. What is the source?
Robert, there is an Anvil from Lindenschmitt 1911 that has a hardy hole and a small beak otherwise squarish and is large in size 18cm W x 21cm L but looks like its broken of...
I also recall from Oxford in a Museum in the Uni that there was a rather large Roman Anvil perhaps 20cm W x 40cm L.. thats probably an under estimate.. I'm pretty certain it had a hole in one corner...
Also the BM has some interesting Anvils including a beaked anvil with a number different sized grooves in the top, though I think it may be earlier...

The photo of the blacksmith was taken in the Museo della Civiltà Romana, Rome... though I dont know the location of the find I could probably find it...
There a number of others very similar though...
Robert, thats a great article and very informative on mobile smithies. I really like your historical setup, its a great way to do experimental archeology that I think is very important to add to academic research. However, I see a few errors in your conclusions Id love to discuss with you.

First off, you assert steel was only made through case hardening. True the Romans used case hardening (mostly in later periods I believe) but not exclusively and certainly not in the method you described. The most efficient way would be to seal many ultra thin bars of iron in a clay box with charcoal and baking them at high welding temperatures for a few hours. These were then welded and folded up a few times to make a relatively homogeneous steel. I would still never call any roman iron or steel "mono-steel" that term is too modern for us to appropriate to this period. The carbon content is still going to vary between layers and the slag/grain would be easily visible especially after some wear and contact with water/anything corrosive.

Ive brought this up on RAT a few times that ancient steel and modern steel are so different in structure we cant really compare them. Have you ever forged iron straight from the bloom? Its very different from a solid mono steel where you know exactly what the content is and there are no impurities to cause crumbling, cracking or weld failures. Even wrought iron from a hundred years ago is a different creature than C45. You have to consider the grain just like in woodworking.

That being said, I have seen a few experiments in case hardening an "accordion" shaped bar before its welded by heating it to welding temps in reducing (carborizing) environments which exist just below the tuyere. After 30 minutes the bar can be welded simultaneously in a few layers that will have increased carbon by a few points of a percent. This was probably known to the Romans but still very different from what you described.

There was also a more common way of refining steel documented by Aristotle that we often forget existed. Hearth refining iron was a easy and cost effective way to make fairly high carbon (.45-.8%) This involved allowing iron bits to descend into a shallow charcoal hearth fed by air from the side and conglomerate under the tuyere into a bloom-like puck.

You also made a rather bold statement that Roman steel never surpassed .45 percent. Why is this? Have the laws of physics changed in the last 2000 years Tongue . Just kidding, but seriously I think its really safe to say the Romans where aware of both how and what techniques would have increased carbon content beyond that point (they probably didnt know it was carbon specifically doing the trick). Whether or not they did was was another question. For example, I assume (based on previous posts you've made) you draw that conclusion from the fact that almost every gladius we have dug up is .45-.50% carbon which would seem on the lower side for blades to modern blacksmiths. If this was the highest they could get, how then did their files scrape the surfaces of the blade? How did their engraving and inlaying chisels cut into them? They had tools that surpassed this amount. I know this for a fact because I have forged and tested Roman steel tools myself (chisels, hammers etc). Since I dont have machines to precisely detect the carbon content I have to use my blacksmithing knowledge to figure it out. A quick spark test shows me the content (on the steel edges backed by softer iron) are well above .45% carbon. My estimates would be .6-.85% in some cases.

Anyway, Id love to discuss Roman blacksmithing and iron making. I really love your traveling smithy setup and I think your assumptions on its functions are well grounded. We should collaborate on a project sometime involving iron and steel made the same way the Romans did.