Station: [220] Metal Craft and Metal Working

In this display case you can see all the processes involved in working bronze: from adding the alloy to the finished craft product.  First to see are the various stone tools for working the metal such as whetstone and stithies or anvils. These items were found in a Bell Beaker Culture grave from the late Neolithic, to the South of Leipzig. These grave goods identify the dead person as a smith.  Along with arrowheads and the typical Bell Beaker, there were four tiny discs of sheet gold; we don’t know what they were used for.  However, these are the oldest gold finds from Saxony.

Please have a look at the raw materials of the alloy process: copper and tin.  It took several stages of smelting with charcoal to produce these bronze bars.  The bronze would then be smelted again in order to make things with it.  Two methods employed are shown here: mould casting, and the lost wax technique. The first involved pouring the liquid metal into stone or clay moulds. The lost wax technique involved preparing a model in wax, and covering it in clay, with a channel for pouring. When heated, the wax would run off and the liquid bronze could be poured into the mould. After it cooled down, the casting would then be released by breaking the mould.

Several working steps are required to transform the rough casting into the desired end product the superfluous remains of the cast have to be parted off by chiselling, followed by cutting, forging, embossing, hammering, bending and twisting, depending on the end product. Then, it could be decorated by chasing, punching, or adding inlays of different coloured metals. A selection of bronze objects can be seen at the end of the production process: a bronze cup, spear points, a large multiple spiral brooch and various rings, to mention but a few. Rings and hatchets of the same size could be traded like bronze bars; presumably, they were a precursor of todays money.