Historical metallurgy and ties between China and the Middle East (the branches of Tartary)


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Sep 14, 2020
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I've been throwing around the idea of making a revised chronology on metallurgy historically and I'm trying to put some pieces together.
Some things I've been wondering lately: origins and more details of mythical metals like orichalcum, ingots of which have been allegedly discovered and the bigger hints around wootz steel trade during the times of the silk road.

I had always found it odd that in all of the documentaries I had seen about wootz/damasc steel, all the "experts" (and some of these people were experts in their crafts, smiths and the like) would always chalk up the creation of wootz to a magic accident. Sound familiar?
I don't buy it though. Crucible steel back when everyone was using slave labor? Sure.
Crucible wootz is in a peculiar part of the world at a peculiar time too: Ancient China and Ancient India have numerous references to them as well as us seeing a surge of blades made of the steel around 1000AD more or less.
The damasc blades of India are very famous for their watery patterns much like the Japanese's own steels except wootz is special because it's a crucible steel. We see it throughout the Muslim world, the Viking world in the form of their Ulfbhert swords that are believed to have been made from wootz imported from the middle east/India and curiously China had something similar in the form of "Bintie steel".
Bintie which is very curiously, thought by some to be nothing but wootz imported from India and surrounding regions, or its own invention similar to it produced "with an indigenous origin".

Swords and old weaponry were a study and hobby of mine for a while and I started noticing the more I dug into it the more things didn't make sense, like iron (and sometimes bronze) swords of 80-90cm existing in China allegedly 2000 years ago at a time we're told in that community everyone used bronze and anyone who works with bronze knows it's much harder to make bronze blades of longer length before you start to lose rigidity with the material.
Then we have the seemingly out of place Sword of Goujian, an ancient Chinese sword found in exceptional condition with remarkable sharpness near perfectly preserved. It's not our mythical steel, but made with exceptional skill and a beautiful pattern of fine geometric shapes welded or etched into the blade in an all too familiar style we're used to now. (Curiously, in recent times archeologists have "discovered and dated" some iron swords of exceptional length to this time period as well, and we keep seeing little discoveries of modern things during "simpler" times like this pop up from time to time.)

Remembering all of this has wanted me to start digging again and connecting some dots. Mythical highly advanced crucible steels that were around in ancient times? Ties between the middle east and China? Similar geometric patterns in both locations on certain artifacts reminiscent of Islamic embellishment? Then adding what we know about the people back then being far more advanced than they're given credit for.. It makes my mind wander in a fun way.

If anyone else has a background in similar fields like metallurgy or an interest in pre-industrial arms it'd be nice to see what kind of map we could make out of the various hints. The middle eastern metal trade is something that comes up a lot in history and we can assume there were ties between them because of the Tartar presence in both regions. Accounting for false dating, I'm wondering if we can ascertain when the first records of these technologies really started showing up. The migration and Crusades eras are the ones I personally found were associated a lot with wootz so I'm starting there, keeping in mind KD's protocol of assuming we knew nothing about anything from before 1500~ though. I don't remember how much we were sure was accurate before then other than theories on the real identity of the first Byzantine ruler which would've been around this time frame. Byzantines would have certainly wielded weapons of the type that were commonly made from wootz (shamshirs)

The East was renown throughout the world for their skills with metals and I want to zone in on this more specifically and make sense of it because I don't buy the "ancient" dates or the accidental discovery bullshit, and I already feel like it's no coincidence that China had their own form of similar steel given that we know was a Tartar presence in China and the middle east. That much I feel is certain.

A document I found pretty easily I've been skimming over on the history of Bintie in China.

Something else caught my eye in it: a reference to Cathay. As well as the mention that the Russians call China Cathay and some dates in the book, the 10th through 13th centuries.
Fascinatingly to my eyes was the mention of Muslim swordsmiths in the Ming dynasty affixing a style of hilt we now associate with things like Indian tulwar blades to a Chinese dao blade.

I vaguely remember discussion on the old forum on a thread or something that referenced a map, or some kind of proof someone had found that the Vikings were given locations of churches to loot from another church or religious institution (the Crusaders I think?). The Vikings Ulfbehrt swords are dated curiously to around the 9th to 11th centuries from which we're told they traded with Easterners (why not Crusaders in the east supplying them with the weapons) to get the steels somehow. I'm sensing connections here as well as sharing of tech.

Don't have the time to go down this document or rabbit hole in full depth right now but dipping my toes in has revealed a lot of interesting things


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