LV  |  EN








Published project articles:
Kalniņš, M., Bērziņš, V., Zagorska, I. (2017) Krama apstrādes tehnoloģiju terminoloģija. Latvijas Vēstures Institūta Žurnāls, nr. 2 (103): 5.–26. lpp. (

Articles accepted for publication:
Damlien, H., Berg-Hansen, I.M., Zagorska, I., Kalniņš, M., Nielsen, S.V., Koxvold, L.U., Bērziņš, V., Schülke, A. A Technological crossroads: exploring diversity in the pressure blade technology of Mesolithic Latvia. Oxford Journal of Archaeology.
Rundberget, B., Vasks, A., Larsen, J.H., Bebre, V., Brūzis, R., Doniņa, I., Gundersen, I.M., Vīksna, A. The bloomery in Latvia – Iron Age and medieval technologies in a comparative study. Historical Metallurgy.
Jakovļeva, M., Auziņa, D., Brūzis, R., Gundersen, I.M., Rundberget, B., Bebre, V., Doniņa, I., Kļava, V., Straube, G., Bērziņš, V., Vīksna, A., Actiņš, A., Meija, R., Popovs, K., Upmalis, R., Parfentev, A. Gone to smelt iron in Courland: technology transfer in the development of an early modern industry. Postmedieval Archaeology.
Kļava, V., Straube, G., Siliņa-Piņķe, R., Guščika, E., Bērziņš, V., Urtāns, U., Upmalis, R., Bērziņš, D. Evidence of 16th- and 17th-century iron production and ironworking in Vidzeme (the example of Ropaži manor): an interdisciplinary approach. Journal of Baltic Studies.

With the support of the Bilateral Fund, a group of project experts from the University of Latvia - V.Bērziņš, M.Kalniņš and I.Zagorska - made a three-day visit to the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, to meet project experts I.M.Berg-Hansen, H.Damlien and A.Schülke. Discussion focussed on questions relating to the continuation of joint research on the Stone Age and the provision of funding for such research. A field trip was made to visit Stone Age sites in the environs of Oslo.

An international conference on the project theme "Flint and iron in the course of history: technology transfer in the processing of mineral resources in earlier times" will be held at the Small Hall of the University of Latvia (Raiņa bulvāris 19, Riga) on 25 October. This is a public event, all are cordially invited. Conference languages: Latvian, English.
Conference programme

Iron produced in experiment using 10th-century methods
     In the course of the experiment carried out in Ventspils in the frame of the project, using a reconstruction of a 10th-century smelting furnace as excavated at Asote Hill-Fort, a small amount of iron was obtained from Latvian bog iron ore. The experiment was conducted by the experienced Norwegian iron production specialist T. Haraldsen, the project experts A. Vijups, B. Rundberget, I. M. Gundersen, J. H. Larsen, M. Kalniņš and the "veteran" of previous years' experiments E. Sviklis.
     Most importantly, through the collaboration with the Norwegian specialists a clearer picture was obtained of the conditions that need to be observed in building and successfully operating this kind of 10th-century smelting furnace. The experience obtained in the course of the experiment gives a better understanding of the technical characteristics of the iron production process used in ancient times in present-day Latvia and permits clearer interpretation of the archaeological evidence.
Video of the experiment (project Facebook profile)

Preparing for an iron production experiment in Ventspils
     An experiment will be held at the Seaside Open-Air Museum in Ventspils on 13 August with the aim of obtaining iron from bog ore. For the purposes of the experiement a replica of a Late Iron Age bloomery furnace has been built, corresponding to the remains of a furnace from the 10th century excavated at Asote Hill Fort in 1951. In the course of the experiment, bog iron ore (limonite) from the Kurzeme region will be roasted on a hearth and then the process of iron reduction will be performed in the replica furnace, using bellows for oxygen supply. The experiment will be conducted by leading specialists in iron production research from Latvia and Norway.
Information about this event on our Facebook profile.

Excavation of the "Asari" ironworks site

From 25 July up to 19 August a team of archaeologists and students from the University of Latvia, in collaboration with Norwegian specialists, is excavating the 17th-century ironworks of the Duchy of Courland located at Asari in Vecumnieki County, Latvia. This is the first archaeological excavation ever conducted at an ironworking site in the former duchy.
     The ironworks at Asari operated in the second half of the 17th century. Like the other ironworks of this time, it was water-powered. The Zvirzde River was dammed, the water diverted into channels, driving the furnace bellows and mechanical hammers by means of water-wheels. The ironworks is mentioned in 17th-century records, but the written sources do not provide clear information about the technologies used or the structures of the ironworks. Only archaeological excavation can shed light on these issues. The Asari ironworks was not one of the largest sites of this kind. Rather, it was selected for archaeological investigation because it is a relatively compact site, little affected by later activities; hence, it should be easier to interpret.
    The excavation is focusing mainly on the furnace site. As the layers of rubble are gradually removed, massive concretions of iron and slag are being revealed, of the kind that accumulated at the base of the furnace, along with dolomite stone used for the furnace structure. Evidence of the products of the ironworks has also come to light: such as a cannonball and an iron bar. Just beside the furnace site is a dolomite quarry that provided building materials. In the course of the excavation, samples of slag, ore and iron objects will be taken for analysis, in order obtain more precise informatioin about the iron smelting and processing activities that took place on the site.
     The ironworks in the former Duchy of Courland represent an unusual historical phenomenon in Europe, reflecting the desire of the dukes to develop production, even though the natural conditions were not particularly favourable. In neighbouring Sweden, iron was produced in large quantities from ore mined underground; on the other hand, the Duchy of Courland had no such resources, and so bog iron ore was the main raw material for ironmaking.
     The excavation is being directed by Rūdolfs Brūzis, researcher at the Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia, with a team of professional archaeologists, including Ingar Mørkestøl Gundersen of the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, and students from the Faculty of History and Philosophy, University of Latvia.
     Visitors are welcome on the excavation open day, 12 August (see our Facebook profile).

Site for ironworks excavation selected: "Asari" in Vecumnieki County

Based on the results of the survey work, the site for archaeological excavation from 25 July to 19 August has been chosen. This is the Asari ironworks site (Vecumnieki County), which relates to the extensive Baldone ironworks complex. The survey indicated that the archaeological remains of the manufactory are likely to be relatively well preserved, and moreover they are restricted to a compact area.
     In preparation for the excavation, a team of student assistants has been recruited from the Faculty of History and Philosophy of the University of Latvia. They have been introduced to the objectives of the work and trained in using the surveying equipment to be employed in the excavation.
Students training in the use of surveying equipment.

Paper on research into iron production at a conference on archaeological and anthropological research

At a research meeting held by the Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia under the title "Archaeological and anthropological research in Latvia in 2014 and 2015", Dita Auziņa presented the paper "Research on iron prodcution technologies in the frame of the TechTrans project".

04-14.04, 25.04-06.05.2016
Research by Norwegian specialists on Stone Age lithic technology in present-day Latvia

Inger Maria Berg-Hansen and Hege Damlien, lithic technology specialists from the University of Oslo - Museum of Cultural History, in collaboration with experts from the Latvian side, Ilga Zagorska, Mārcis Kalniņš and Valdis Bērziņš, have been analysing Stone Age lithic collections from Latvia, most of which are kept at the National History Museum of Latvia. Attention has focussed mainly on the cores from which blades were detached, as well as on the blades themselves, identifying diagonistic features that indicate the use of specific processing methods and techniques. 
     An extensive study was carried out of the lithic collections from sites from the very end of the Palaeolithic, marking the earliest period of habitation in Latvia, as well as those from the Mesolithic, when different lithic technologies appeared.
     The work was undertaken in the course of two visits to Latvia. At the beginning of the first visit, the Nowegian specialists presented their methodology to the small group of Latvian archaeologists engaged in research relating to lithics. Informal teaching sessions were also conducted. The leader of the project work package, Almut Schülke, visited Riga for a shorter period in order to take part in the analytical work. During the time of her visit the project experts discussed the further course of cooperation, in addition to which they travelled to the Salaspils Laukskolas site (Salaspils County) and the Zvejnieki complex of sites (Burtnieki County), which have provided two of the most important lithic collections under study.   
     A very large corpus of data was obtained in the course of the study. Analysis of this material in the further course of the project will provide a clearer picture of the development of lithic technology in present-day Latvia during the Stone Age. It is clear already at this stage that the results will provide an important addtion to current concepts regarding the transfer of technology during the Stone Age in Northern Europe.

Norwegian lithics researchers (from left) Inger Maria Berg-Hansen and Hege Damlien analysing collections at the National History Museum of Latvia (photo: Mārcis Kalniņš)

The lithic technology research group by the ruins of the family manor of Count C. G. Sievers, initiator of Stone Age research in Latvia, during the trip to the Zvejnieki complex of sites (photo: Līga Palma)

Survey of ironworks in the former Duchy of Courland and Semigallia

A group of experts from the Latvian side (Rūdolfs Brūzis, Mārīte Jakovļeva, Dita Auziņa, Viktorija Bebre and Inga Doniņa) have spent three weeks surveying the 16th-18th century ironworks in the territory of the former Duchy of Courland and Semigallia - corresponding to the present-day regions of Kurzeme, Zemgale and Sēlija. Norwegian experts Bernt Rundberget and Jan Henning Larsen were also involved in the survey for a shorter period.
     The survey included the following ironworks complexes: Asari, Baldone, Birži,  Dzelzsāmurs and the environs, Ēdas, Engure, Kliņģi, Pelši, Skrunda, Turlava and Uguņi. Bearing in mind the general absence of archaeological data, in the course of the survey work the researchers mainly relied on data from written historical sources. The recorded remains of ironworks include: charcoal pits, structural remains, dams and networks of water channels. A large number of iron ore and slag samples were collected. Local residents also handed over items manufactured at the iron works, namely cannonballs.
     Hand-coring was carried out on several sites, and prospection by georadar took place on two sites. Sites were surveyed by total station and GPS. 
     The results of the survey are being brought together in a database on the ironworks of the Duchy of Courland, and information about the sites will be forwarded to the State Inspectorate for Heritage Protection. 

The Birži ironworks site.

Georadar prospection and DGPS survey at the Asari ironworks site.

Visit by Norwegian iron production specialists in Riga

Researchers from the University of Oslo - Museum of Cultural History specialising in iron production studies, Bernt Rundberget and Jan Henning Larsen visited Riga to view archaeological documentaion as well as samples of iron slag, bloom (raw iron) and iron smelting furnace remains kept at the Repository of Archaeological Material of the Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia, the Archaeology Department and of the National History Museum of Latvia and the Archaeology Department of the Museum of History of Riga and Navigation. In the course of the visit a large volume of material was examined, relating to iron production from the beginning of the Iron Age up to the Middle Ages. Samples for analysis were selected. Found to be of particular interest were the Early Iron Age smelting furnaces at Spietiņi, which differ from all the known furnace types in Norway. Preserved slag samples from medieval towns turned out to be smithing slags rather than slags from iron smelting.  

Three papers on the theme of the project at the 74th University of Latvia Conference

The Archaeology Session of the 74th University of Latvia Conference included three papers discussing the theoretical aspects and first results of the project. The session was held on 5 February 2016 at the Faculty of History and Philosophy:
Andris Šnē.  Technology transfer in prehistoric societies: archaeological evidence of the circulation of knowledge and skills
Mārcis Kalniņš. Flint processing in dwelling 2 of the Sārnate settlement site
Dita Auziņa. Iron production from prehistory up to the Early Modern Period - research questions and trends
Conference programme (in Latvian)

Visit to Norway by Latvian experts studying iron production
A group of archaeologists and a historian from the University of Latvia and the Institute of Latvian History at the University of Latvia went to Norway to visit our project partners from the University of Oslo - Museum of Cultural History. During the 7-day trip through Norway we visited archaeological sites of  iron production from the Roman period up to the 18th century, took part in an archaeological reconstruction of iron production and discussed research strategies for the project.

Nes Iron Works Museum, Tvedestrand. Almost intact and completely preserved representation of an old iron works, consisting of buildings, machinery and equipment, which date back to the 17th, 18th and the 19th centuries. (Photo: Dita Auziņa)

Gunnar Molden, researcher of Nes Iron Works Museum, introduces the working principles of the different hammers. (Photo: Dita Auziņa)

Burial field/bloomery site at Fekjå near Geilo. Dr Bernt Rundberget presents a typical charcoal pit in the landscape. (Photo: Inga Doniņa)

Reconstructed bloomery furnace, Dokkfløy. Bog ore and charcoal are gradually added to the furnace. (Photo: Inga Doniņa)

Bloomery furnace at Dokkfløy archaeological site. (Photo: Andrejs Vasks)

Participants of the study trip: (from left) Ingar Mørkestøl Gundersen, Jan Henning Larsen, Dita Auziņa,  Andrejs Vasks, Andris Šnē, Mārīte Jakovļeva, Armands Vijups, Viktorija bebre, Rūdolfs Brūzis, Inga Doniņa, Bernt Rundberget

Information event in connection with commencement of project implementation
Faculty of History and Philosophy,
Rm 513, 12 a.m.

The project was presented by the principal investigator Valdis Bērziņš, along with project experts Mārīte Jakovļeva and Andris Šnē.
    The event was attended by journalists from the daily newspaper "Latvijas Avīze", the news team of TV company LNT as well as professional archaeologists from the Faculty of History and Philosophy of the University of Latvia, the National History Museum of Latvia, the State Inspection for Heritage Protection and other people with an interest in this research.
    Press release (in Latvian)
    In connection with this event Latvian Radio 1 broadcast an interview with V.Bērziņš, M. Jakovļeva and A.Šnē (in Latvian) in the "Zināmais nezināmā" programme on 30.06.2015.
     Press article (in Latvian): V. Sprūde, "Pētīs hercogistes laiku dzelzs manufaktūras", "Latvijas Avīze", 16.07.2015.
Project implementation begins.
Partnership agreement concluded.

Project summary

The project focusses on the technologies used for the processing of mineral resources important in prehistory and in historical times, giving particular attention to questions relating to the transfer of technology between different societies and cultures.

A crucial raw material for tool-making was flint, and so special methods for working this material developed over the millennia. The production of iron from bog ore began in present-day Latvia in the first centuries AD and continued in later periods, developing on a large scale during the time of the Duchy of Courland.

With the participation of Norwegian specialists, flint-working in the Stone Age and the development of iron production technologies in present-day Latvia from the period up to the early modern period is examined from the perspective of technology transfer. Technical analysis is undertaken on flint tools; archaeological excavation takes place at the site of an ironworks; an ancient iron smelting furnace is reconstructed; the results of the study are brought together in international scholarly publications.

The project will contribute to the general understanding of technologies and their development in Northern Europe in the pre-industrial age.

Essential data

  • Project no. NFI/R/2014/062, Technology transfer in the processing of mineral resources in earlier times 
  • The project is co-financed by the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2009-2014 Programme LV05 ‘Research and Scholarships’.
  • Implementation period: 1 June 2015 - 30 April 2017
Project promoter: University of Latvia (project implemented at the Faculty of History and Philosophy and the Institute of Latvian History)
Partner 1: University of Oslo - Museum of Cultural History

Project total costs:  € 480850.00
Allocation from Norway Grants: € 396701.00 (82.5%)
National co-financing:  48085.00 (10%)
Self co-financing: € 36064.00 (7.5%)

The programme LV05 “Research and Scholarships” is administered by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia in collaboration with the State Education Development Agency.

 Last updated: 20.02.2018.    Webmaster: V.Bērziņš