Animations and castings in the Celtic Village
Festival of British Archaeology 2009
There were two big events today in St Fagans’ Celtic Village: screenings of Sean Harris’s animations which fuse Welsh myth and archaeological discoveries, and Tim Young’s project to recreate a Welsh early medieval church bell.
Sean took over a roundhouse for the day, turning it into a make-shift cinema, with the floor of the house providing the screen. It was a fantastic setting, entirely appropriate for Sean’s work which plays on the kinds of stories that Iron Age people may have told one another around the campfire of an evening.
I only managed to sit in on one of Sean’s screenings; most of my day was spent just outside the Celtic Village where Tim Young had set up his workshop. When we first arrived at St Fagans this morning I had thought that we’d have to abandon this part of the festival. Torrential rain had drenched the area and it was hard to imagine that he’d be able to light a fire in his charcoal bell furnace, but Tim’s greater experience shone through and he soon had things up and running.
The aim of his experiment was to create an iron bell with a bronze surface coating, replicating an example in the museum's collections. This involved taking a wrought iron sheet and wrapping it to make a bell shape. Bronze was then wrapped around the bell and the whole was encased in a mix of clay, sand and horse dung. This package was then popped into the bell furnace and covered by charcoal. A continuous rota of bellows-work raised the temperature with the aim of melting the bronze and causing it to flow across the surface of the bell.
This was the plan. Unexpectedly, the temperature in the furnace proved to be so hot that today’s two attempts both melted the bells. But lessons have been learnt and new plans have been put in place. Success is predicted for tomorrow when the experiment will continue.