Ottoman Mining, Metal Working and Fire-Arms Technology in South East Europe (15th-17th centuries)

by H.H. Günhan Danisman Published on: 25th May 2007

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The article deals with the impact of Ottoman mining and metal working technology in the Balkans region on the fire-arms technology of Southeast Europe during the crucial period going from the 15th century through to the 17th century.

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Figure 1. Günhan Danisman during his speech at 1001 Inventions Conference.

See the link below to the full article if you need to obtain PDF reading softwareThis short article is taken from the full article (by Prof. H.H. Günhan Danisman) which is available here as 11 page PDF file.

The article is originally a talk presented at the international conference 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in our World held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on the 8th of March 2006, on the occasion of the launch of the exhibition 1001 inventions. The conference proceedings are edited by Dr. Salim Ayduz and Dr. Saleema Kauser.

Increasing archaeological evidence indicates that Anatolia had abundance of metal ores, paticularly copper oxides and iron oxides, which have been mined and utilized as metals since circa 9,000 BCE; earlier than any other region in the Near East. Knowledge of metal working had diffused from Anatolia to neighbouring regions, such as the Balkans, as well as the Eastern and the Central Europe during Bronze and Iron Ages.

Recent research carried out in the northwest region of the Turkish Thrace at the site of Demirköy-Samakocuk has indicated that the Ottoman Turks, whose Central Asian ancestors are believed to have been the intermediaries for transfer of gunpowder from China to the West, have realized a major breakthrough in fire-arms technology from the beginning of 15th century onwards. The development of their skill in casting huge bronze cannons has been instrumental in the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453.

The industrial archaeology project that was started at the site of Demirköy-Samakocuk under the auspices of the Society for the Turkish History of Science and the direction of the Museum Directorate at Kikrlareli, as well as the participation of experts from six Turkish universities and the Metallurgy Museum at Bochum, Germany, has indicated a hither to the unexpected capacity by the Ottoman administration for large scale industrial iron production.

Figure 2: Excavations at the fortified settlement.

As one of the three major metal production centres in the Balkans Region, which are well documented in the Ottoman archives, Demirköy-Samakocuk iron foundry has been relatively well preserved due to its inaccessibility and its thick forest coverage. The last four seasons of excavations at this site have revealed residential buildings, remains of high furnaces, water structures for the operation of water wheels, as well as large heaps of slag and charcoal. The site research is being supplemented by archival research. At the same time archaeo-metallurgical analysis at the archaeometry laboratories indicate that by mid-17th century, the site of Demirköy-Samakocuk, similar to other centres of Ottoman metal production, was practicing a unique system of “private-public partnership” in industrial metallurgy in the Balkans, more advanced than other regions of the Continent.

This unique industrial archaeology project is planned to be completed around the year 2010, and the foundry is expected to be restored and turned into an open-air museum.

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