tanged arrow from Fulford

 Recording the events of September 1066
yorks releif map
Finds 5



The Final Report

Finding Fulford cover

The Fulford Tapestry

Experts have their say


This was one of the experiments we undertook  to verify the data before publishing the results. 

We wanted to check the ironwork because, during the course of the project, it has gradually become clear that the iron was being re-processed around the area. Because this has never been positively identified around any other battle from this era, it was important to find out as much as possible as the bits and pieces.

We could not be sure what we would find: the results have helped to confirm the working hypothesis that this was post-battle metal-recycling. But the XRF data has provided an insight that will take some time to understand.  

What is X Ray Fluorescence?

This clever device shines xrays at the surface and records what bounces back. (This is like shining a special torch but you would need x-ray eyes to see the reflection). Oxford Instruments very kindly brought their handheld XRF machine to the York so that we could examine some of the ferrous material we had gathered.

(Left) Richard, from Oxford Instruments, holds the X-MET5000 machine to measure the composition of the axe head billet.

The machine allowed us to screen any modern material and has revealed several interesting groups of iron and the significance of this is now being investigated.

By revealing the composition of the iron it has provided a fresh insight into the items collected.

(Right) The laboratory at King's Manor, at the University of York, was kindly lent to us for 5 days along with two skilful technicians.

One table was devoted to each of the hearth areas identified. Around 300 items were measured from the collection of nearly 2000 ferrous pieces collected by the metal detectorists.

It will take time to analyse all the data produced. 

The key finding is that the items tested are all pre-industrial (apart from a few test pieces that were slipped into the mix as controls).


  • The items that we think are anvils have some fascinating trace elements on their surface.
  • We are not dealing with a random scatter of metal.
  • There seem to be a number of distinct types of iron - now if these can linked to similar iron compositions from other places....
  • Grouping the metal together (using the data) rather than the shapes is getting us close to just what was going on.
Some brilliant technology enabled a small xray source which dose not require its own power station to be constructed. Xray 'excite' the target surface which then emit a pulse.

The machine then does some very clever calculations to work out which elements, and how much of them, are present in the sample. It can do this because it every element has a 'fingerprint' of the radiations it emits.

We hope to use this machine's versatile capabilities to examine the soil from selected areas for traces of iron.


A very big thank-you to Oxford Instruments for all their help (This was the second time they have helped on the Fulford project).

And to the staff and students at the Department of Archaeology at the University of York  for accommodating and working round us.

Without the assistance and guidance of so many people during this project, we could not have achieved such an insight into our past.

Last updated May 2012