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Old 4th February 2016, 04:44 AM   #1
mahratt
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Default When in India "died" wootz?

Dear participants of the Forum. It is well known that the wootz in India stopped producing the mid-19th century.

It seems to be known and the reasons why this happened:

1) a ban on logging
2) a large number of blades is not expensive good quality from Europe

But, let's see, from what sources we rely when we say that the wootz steel production in India ended in the mid-19th century.
I think it will be interesting if the participants of the forum called literary source and citation from them, which prove that wootz steel production in India stopped by the mid 19th century.

By the way! What do you think? Termination production of wootz steel means the cessation of the production of wootz steel blades?


But please, let's do without Wikipedia
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Old 4th February 2016, 07:14 AM   #2
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Interesting topic Mahratt!!
As far as I have understood, the British banned production of wootz around the 1860s blaming the effects of deforestation but I have yet to find a citable source for this situation. I know that a number of 'iron works' were established by EIC official Josiah Heath around 1825, but to me it is unclear whether these 'iron' works included wootz.
"On Indian Iron and Steel " J.M. Heath, " Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society" V, 1839, pp. 390-97,
In an entry on wootz in the "Cyclopedia of India and SE Asia" by Edward Balfour in 1885, the industry of producing wootz is described with no mention of any proscription or forbidding of production found .

In previous discussions we have had here ( Sept,17, 2010) various comments note that existing wootz billets which must have been stockpiled were probably available to makers of the 'old school' well through the 19th c. but still need cited references to support. Whatever the case, this long standing industry of world famous steel certainly didn't vanish overnight through some bureaucratic order.
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Old 4th February 2016, 10:10 AM   #3
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i gather it just died out for economical reasons, excellent easily worked steel and alloys in europe and being exported slowly killed off the more expensive wootz/bulat, it was just easier and cheaper to mass produce high quality weapons almost as good as if not better than wootz.

the current infatuation with the more artistically beautiful patterns in wootz and pattern welded steel, still more expensive than mono-steel alloys, is mainly due to the lack of need for them as weapons, and the desires of collectors, like us, and of experimental archaeologists obsessed with the desire to resurrect the lost secrets.
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Old 4th February 2016, 10:30 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
i gather it just died out for economical reasons, excellent easily worked steel and alloys in europe and being exported slowly killed off the more expensive wootz/bulat, it was just easier and cheaper to mass produce high quality weapons almost as good as if not better than wootz.


Of course you're right! I agree with you. But the question is, when exactly was "killed" wootz? Why did talk about the middle of the 19th century, rather than the beginning of the 20th century?

And who of the researchers wrote on the subject, proving his words, not just voicing assumptions.
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Old 4th February 2016, 11:00 AM   #5
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try this: http://www.wirralmodelengineeringso...mer_Process.pdf

looks like it started about 1865 when the commercial production of bessimer process steel was commercially available.
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Old 4th February 2016, 11:22 AM   #6
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Again, you're right. Thank you for the interesting article. But I am interested to know whether there is a direct mention to the fact that wootz steel production ceased in those years, the 19th century. Stating the reasons

We are now argue that damask steel production was a long and expensive process. I agree. From the point of view of Europeans. But, do manual work is now in India dearly valued? I doubt that 150 years ago the situation was different ....
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Old 4th February 2016, 02:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
Dear participants of the Forum. It is well known that the wootz in India stopped producing the mid-19th century.

It seems to be known and the reasons why this happened:

1) a ban on logging
2) a large number of blades is not expensive good quality from Europe

But, let's see, from what sources we rely when we say that the wootz steel production in India ended in the mid-19th century.
I think it will be interesting if the participants of the forum called literary source and citation from them, which prove that wootz steel production in India stopped by the mid 19th century.

By the way! What do you think? Termination production of wootz steel means the cessation of the production of wootz steel blades?


But please, let's do without Wikipedia


Why was The Russian metallurgist Pavel Petrovich Anosov (1799-1851) so intent on learning how to make bulat if it was still being widely produced during the time period that he was alive?
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Old 4th February 2016, 02:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Why was The Russian metallurgist Pavel Petrovich Anosov (1799-1851) so intent on learning how to make bulat if it was still being widely produced during the time period that he was alive?


I'm not saying that the wootz in the middle of the 19th century were able to produce. Although we do not see specific mention of this. And I'm curious to see such references.

It is about that of the old wootz blanks probably could do wootz blades. And anyway, how could disappear for short period many centuries established production?
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Old 4th February 2016, 04:15 PM   #9
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Kronckew and Estcrh , you guys are spot on in your assessments and views on the situation, which is essentially what I was finding but honestly could not put into proper words. Metallurgy and these more scientific aspects are admittedly my nemesis in these studies

I am along with Mahratt in wondering how this 'art' in fabricating this fantastic steel in India could just vanish, and that its secrets were so intricate they could not be duplicated.

The advance of industrial revolution seems to have furnished more cost efficient methods of producing steel in England, so the call for these materials certainly would play a larger role in volume. However, as Estrch has well pointed out, if wootz blades were still being produced in his lifetime, why would a scientist be trying to discover this secret?

I think this scenario itself is one of the greatest mysteries of wootz, compounded by the fact that Russian presence in Central Asia certainly must have had access to centers which produced blades. Did they not have political access to Iran ? I need my "Great Game" by Peter Hopkirk!!!!
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Old 4th February 2016, 04:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
... But, do manual work is now in India dearly valued? I doubt that 150 years ago the situation was different ....


india and pakistan are still major suppliers of 'damascus' pattern welded steel sword and knife blades. they still command a premium over a monosteel blade of the same shape.

i would however assume it's the distributor that makes the most money, paying relatively little to the poor kami hammering on the anvil. the kamis and sarkis who forged the blades and made the scabbards and fittings were and are of the 'untouchables', the lowest of low caste in that most nasty of social ranking systems. most employers pay them on the piece work system, so the faster the items are made, and the more items they make per day, the more they get paid.

western smiths are better educated, better paid and expect far more than eastern ones. as you say, likely not far different than in the 19c, even under queen victoria, and her extended family, the kings, kaisers and tsars of the other european nations.

...and the rising use of steam and later electric powered machinery rather than hand tools makes a difference too.

there are a variety of ever changing and mutating conditions, economic, historical, social, political, and scientific all playing their part. it will be interesting to see if anyone comes up with any precise reasonings in the maelstrom.

i have also read somewhere that the mines where the ore used for wootz were playing out, so with the source drying up, and other ore sources not having it's peculiar chemical composition (some say it was a trace of vanadium that made all the difference), some people hid away blooms justincase, which occasionally still show up. hence the wootz blades made in more modern times, using the old blobs of material whose mfg. process had been lost. tracking down the source and date of that theory would be rather difficult. (i do seem to recall a billet of wootz (or maybe bulat) of a few kilos going for an outrageous price on a well known internet auction site.)

Last edited by kronckew : 4th February 2016 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 4th February 2016, 06:35 PM   #11
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You talk absolutely true. I agree with many of your words. But, I'm not talking about our reasoning (even though they are very correct).
I'm curious to know what was written in the 19th - early 20th century, the British researchers. How could they not notice an event such as the cessation of production of wootz steel and its causes?
Or all the conclusions that the wootz in India stopped producing in the middle of the 19th century, is based solely on circumstantial evidence?
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Old 4th February 2016, 09:55 PM   #12
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I agree Mahratt, what Kronckew is expressing is exactly right, and I recognize much of the factual data (even though I don't fully understand it ). I also understand that you are seeking cited references in the literature which expressly note the demise of the Indian wootz industry and if they specify a more finite date or period.

Kronckew, what I have difficulty in grasping is that metal work in India of course involving wootz, were there other metal or steel products produced concurrently in the same areas, or was it only wootz?

While wootz production stopped, or so we are told, were other types of regular steel or iron still produced ?
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Old 4th February 2016, 11:11 PM   #13
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Jim,
The decline in making wootz ingots was due to a dwindling demand: by the middle of the 19th century both Brits and Germans flooded the market with cheaper and more reliable mono steel blades. The Westernization of Persian military with the introduction of European-pattern sabers did not help either.

But let's not forget a human factor: wootz blade is valuable and desirable not only because of its metallurgical composition, but mainly because of its beauty that depended in large measure on forging skills of the bladesmith. This is why Anosov's bulat blades were pretty primitive visually and why AFAIK only one modern bladesmith can make a shamshir equal in its beauty to the best Persian blades.
Since there was no demand for the wootz blades, the skills began their decline and got lost in a generation or two.
Was there at the end of 19 century some Ahmed Baba somewhere in a village near Shiraz or Haiderabad who knew to what color it is permissible to heat wootz ingot and how to turn the half-made blade on the anvil, and how forcefully to pound it and in which direction? Perhaps. But any skill gets lost if not exercised constantly and by many people. And who would like to become his pupil with no prospect for money and fame?

Estcrh's comment on Anosov was right on the money. Anosov published his bulat study in 1837, but in 1841 captain Massalski published full description of the process he observed in "Persia" ( not known where exactly). Did Anosov have his informants? Unknown. But after his death bulat manufacture in Russia also dwindled to virtual zero ( there are some vague stories of former Anosov's workers making something similar, but their efforts also went nowhere and vanished with them).
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Old 5th February 2016, 12:09 AM   #14
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ariel, what you are saying is happening now, the traditional skills of khukuri making in nepal are passed down by word of mouth and experience, the colour to heat a blade for hardening, the use of a tea kettle of boiling water to quench and harden the edge while leaving the spine less hard at just the right moment is not easy to document without doing it consistently time oafter time. as demand goes down, the people with the knowledge get older and the young want to move to the big city and be doctors, ghurkahs or computer techs, not low caste steel pounders.

one anecdote for steel in india early 19c. by the time of the sepoy mutiny in the 1840's, a lot of surplus 1796 LC sabre blades were converted to tulwars for the indian troops of the east india company. the local sword makers just could not compete.

the troops then rebelled. the british troops who fought them with their newer pattern swords complained that the indians had better and sharper swords that were more effective. turned out that the indian troops actually put a decent edge on their old 1796 lc sabre blades, and kept them in leather/wood scabbards which did not dull the edges like the brits steel scabbards. the brits there after put wood liners in the metal scabbards or wood/leather ones.

by the time of the american civil war, it was extremely rare for two sides to get close enough to actually use swords, and when they did most were fairly inexperienced in their use and few were even sharpened, so sword cuts were rare. the brits who fought a lot of native troops armed with swords and spears, as in the mahdis troops at ombdurman did use theirs to effect, but most of the mahdis casualties were due to artillery and the new machine guns. even winston churchill used a mauser pistol when he charged with the lancers and not his sword.

the boer wars kind of put paid to the sword, boers did not play fair, shooting brits in their red or white uniforms at a thousand yards from cover.

tho it was still used occasionally during ww1, and even more limited in ww2 (except for mad jack churchill - no relation to winston - who not only captured a company of germans with just his sword, but was credited with actually using an english longbow to kill a german sergeant in battle. he walked ashore at normandy on d-day sword drawn and followed by a piper.

the US navy eliminated swords for officers at one point in ww2 to save metal to build battleships. the officers ignored the order & got them reinstated. even the humble cutlass is again in ceremonial use now in the USN for enlisted.sadly they tend to use stainless steel blades which are brittle but look good.

the filipino marines still use a sword for jungle combat against the rebels where, on jungle trails and thick brush, suddenly may bring two sides together in surprise, and where even a carbine may be too long to swing around in the vegetation. they use a ginunting in close quarters to good effect, as do the ghurkahs with their khuks.

seems the sword will never completely die out. and there is still a place for wootz, if we can figure it'as secrets.
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Old 5th February 2016, 12:28 AM   #15
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Here is an interesting essay, from what I have previously read and am reading now, it seems as though the real center of wootz steel production was in India. While blades may have been made in Persia/Syria it does not look like the raw materials were produced in these countries. The steel was produced in India and traded to sword making centers in other countries.

When Europeans recognized the superiority of Indian steel making technology they went about trying to creat a way to mass produce the same type of steel made in Indian so they could bypass the Indians. Many years of research into making high quality of steel by the Europeans eventually led to the modern steel making process that was directly responsible for the decline of traditional Indian steel manufacture.

Between the British desire to subvert the Indian steel makers and the now abundant supply of much cheaper European steel the Indian steel makers simply could not survive. The decline seems to be in the early mid to late 1800s.

http://www.ghadar.in/gjh_html/?q=co...teel-metallurgy
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Last edited by estcrh : 5th February 2016 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 5th February 2016, 12:48 AM   #16
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Kronckew:

ariel, what you are saying is happening now, the traditional skills of khukuri making in nepal are passed down by word of mouth and experience, the colour to heat a blade for hardening, the use of a tea kettle of boiling water to quench and harden the edge while leaving the spine less hard at just the right moment is not easy to document without doing it consistently time oafter time. as demand goes down, the people with the knowledge get older and the young want to move to the big city and be doctors, ghurkahs or computer techs, not low caste steel pounders.
-------------------------------------------------
Glad we agree. Your example of the same process happening right under our watch is very instructive.
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Old 5th February 2016, 02:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Jim,
The decline in making wootz ingots was due to a dwindling demand: by the middle of the 19th century both Brits and Germans flooded the market with cheaper and more reliable mono steel blades. The Westernization of Persian military with the introduction of European-pattern sabers did not help either.

But let's not forget a human factor: wootz blade is valuable and desirable not only because of its metallurgical composition, but mainly because of its beauty that depended in large measure on forging skills of the bladesmith. This is why Anosov's bulat blades were pretty primitive visually and why AFAIK only one modern bladesmith can make a shamshir equal in its beauty to the best Persian blades.
Since there was no demand for the wootz blades, the skills began their decline and got lost in a generation or two.
Was there at the end of 19 century some Ahmed Baba somewhere in a village near Shiraz or Haiderabad who knew to what color it is permissible to heat wootz ingot and how to turn the half-made blade on the anvil, and how forcefully to pound it and in which direction? Perhaps. But any skill gets lost if not exercised constantly and by many people. And who would like to become his pupil with no prospect for money and fame?

Estcrh's comment on Anosov was right on the money. Anosov published his bulat study in 1837, but in 1841 captain Massalski published full description of the process he observed in "Persia" ( not known where exactly). Did Anosov have his informants? Unknown. But after his death bulat manufacture in Russia also dwindled to virtual zero ( there are some vague stories of former Anosov's workers making something similar, but their efforts also went nowhere and vanished with them).




Ariel, thank you for the well explained detail on this conundrum. I remain bewildered by how in the world such forging techniques could be lost, and in such a relatively short time. It does seem like a microcosm of the kind of subtle but somewhat monumental change that has happened here in the U.S. in many aspects over relatively short time. One day I took my truck (a 1987) in for a tuneup (this was about 20 yrs ago). The young guy opened the hood and exclaimed , 'what is that?' , looking at the engine . Surprised, I said, 'its a carburator' !!!
The kid had never worked on one of these!!! he only knew fuel injection!!

How many young people today cannot imagine when we did not have DVDs and CDs or cell phones etc. and this has been only over 30 years.

I guess in that way, something like such a metallurgical process could vanish, just as we have lost so many aspects of everyday life several decades ago.
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Old 5th February 2016, 04:30 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
How many young people today cannot imagine when we did not have DVDs and CDs or cell phones etc. and this has been only over 30 years.

I guess in that way, something like such a metallurgical process could vanish, just as we have lost so many aspects of everyday life several decades ago.


Jim, it's not a very appropriate comparison You draw an analogy between the modern rapidly developing society of the 21st century and the archaic society of the 19th century.

I will answer you another analogy

You say that young people do not know in the US that such a carburetor, but I think in less developed countries, children know what a carburetor. Moreover, it seems to me that in the patriarchal lands in the US (somewhere in backwoods Kentucky) children will also know what a carburetor
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Old 5th February 2016, 04:42 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Here is an interesting essay


estcrh, thank you for an interesting essay!


But here again just what think our contemporaries....

Strange situation. Bulat ( wootz) in India disappears. However, none of the Indian researchers (and we know that the British researchers had enough) does not noted this fact. But it does not bother anyone. And we are from the standpoint of modern man argue that wootz disappeared in the middle of the 19th century. But at the same time using only circumstantial evidence

Guys do not you think that this is not scientific?

Last edited by mahratt : 5th February 2016 at 05:43 AM.
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Old 5th February 2016, 05:49 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
estcrh, thank you for an interesting essay!


But here again just what think our contemporaries....

Strange situation. Bulat ( wootz) in India disappears. However, none of the Indian researchers (and we know that the British researchers had enough) does not noted this fact. But it does not bother anyone. And we are from the standpoint of modern man argue that wootz disappeared in the middle of the 19th century. But at the same time using only circumstantial evidence

Guys do not you think that this is not scientific?
The authors from the essay I posted are both Indian, or am I not understanding you?

Marvels of Indian Iron through the Ages by R. Balasubramanian (2008)
History of Iron Technology in India From Beginning to Premodern Times by Vibha Tripathi (2008)
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Old 5th February 2016, 05:53 AM   #21
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OFTEN THOSE WHO FORGED STEEL WERE VERY SECRETIVE AND GUARDED THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNIQUES VERY CLOSELY. ONLY A TRUSTED APPRENTICE WOULD IN TIME BE TAUGHT AND THOUGH FOREIGNERS AND OUTSIDERS OFTEN TRIED THEY FOUND THE SECRETS OFTEN COULD NOT BE BOUGHT. WHEN THE WEALTHY STOPPED BUYING FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR ARMORY'S.
DEMAND AND PROFIT DIMINISHED AND GOOD APPRENTICES COULD NOT BE EASILY FOUND. SO THE MASTERS OFTEN TOOK THEIR SECRETS TO THE GRAVE WITH THEM. IT HAS HAPPENED IN MANY FIELDS NOT JUST SWORD MAKING. THIS IS A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION BECAUSE MAN'S LIFE SPAN IS SHORT AND MANY WOULD RATHER TAKE THEIR SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE TO THE GRAVE THAN TO PASS THEM ON.
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Old 5th February 2016, 06:46 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
The authors from the essay I posted are both Indian, or am I not understanding you?

Marvels of Indian Iron through the Ages by R. Balasubramanian (2008)
History of Iron Technology in India From Beginning to Premodern Times by Vibha Tripathi (2008)


estcrh, thanks again for article links. Maybe I was not very attentive. But I did not see in these articles to their authors appealed to the documents of the 19th century ... I always thought (although maybe I'm wrong) that the difference between the popular and the scientific article is just that in the scientific article, the author not only express their thoughts (referring to the well-known historical facts and drawing conclusions on the basis of their), but also provides links to documents of the time of which he writes (19th century in our case). If the references to historical documents (studies, books, articles) - no, the article is different from our conversations here in the forum only because it someone has published in some magazine

We all know the book by Lord Egerton. He started collecting Arms and Armor in 1855. A book was published in 1896. Maybe I did not read his book carefully ... then please correct me. Is Egerton writes in his book that the wootz in India in 19th century stopped producing?

Or is there someone else from scientists in India in the 19th century, who wrote this?
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Old 5th February 2016, 06:57 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
OFTEN THOSE WHO FORGED STEEL WERE VERY SECRETIVE AND GUARDED THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNIQUES VERY CLOSELY. ONLY A TRUSTED APPRENTICE WOULD IN TIME BE TAUGHT AND THOUGH FOREIGNERS AND OUTSIDERS OFTEN TRIED THEY FOUND THE SECRETS OFTEN COULD NOT BE BOUGHT. WHEN THE WEALTHY STOPPED BUYING FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR ARMORY'S.
DEMAND AND PROFIT DIMINISHED AND GOOD APPRENTICES COULD NOT BE EASILY FOUND. SO THE MASTERS OFTEN TOOK THEIR SECRETS TO THE GRAVE WITH THEM. IT HAS HAPPENED IN MANY FIELDS NOT JUST SWORD MAKING. THIS IS A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION BECAUSE MAN'S LIFE SPAN IS SHORT AND MANY WOULD RATHER TAKE THEIR SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE TO THE GRAVE THAN TO PASS THEM ON.


VANDOO, secrets - it is always interesting and exciting. This creates a certain mystical aura. (By the way, that is what I love the movie "X-Files")

But let's look at the facts. And the facts are that even now in the 21st century, we see a large number of wootz items (swords, swords, daggers, knives and spears). If you count all wootz items in our collections,how many items we get? A few thousand? In addition, several thousand in private collections in Russia. More thousands wootz items in museums in the world. Do not you think that is too many items to talk about some secrets?
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Old 5th February 2016, 07:01 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt

Or is there someone else from scientists in India in the 19th century, who wrote this?
I believe that the scientists in 19th century Indian were foreign, mainly British, trying to find ways to extract anything of value from Indian products etc.
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Old 5th February 2016, 07:10 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt

But let's look at the facts. And the facts are that even now in the 21st century, we see a large number of wootz items (swords, swords, daggers, knives and spears). If you count all wootz items in our collections,how many items we get? A few thousand? In addition, several thousand in private collections in Russia. More thousands wootz items in museums in the world. Do not you think that is too many items to talk about some secrets?


Steel from Ancient India (Wootz Steel)
WOOTZ STEEL: AN ADVANCED MATERIAL OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
S. Srinivasan and S. Ranganathan
Department of Metallurgy
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore
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Old 5th February 2016, 07:31 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by estcrh
Steel from Ancient India (Wootz Steel)
WOOTZ STEEL: AN ADVANCED MATERIAL OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
S. Srinivasan and S. Ranganathan
Department of Metallurgy
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore


Thank you, estcrh. This only confirms my words that wootz steel production was not such a great secret.

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Originally Posted by estcrh
I believe that the scientists in 19th century Indian were foreign, mainly British, trying to find ways to extract anything of value from Indian products etc.


You're right, of course. First of all, the British in India were interested in wealth. But as the time from the middle of the 19th century, there are many studies on the ethnography of India.
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Old 5th February 2016, 07:47 AM   #27
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Thank you, estcrh. This only confirms my words that wootz steel production was not such a great secret.
It is interesting, how could you have so many steel manufacturers making a product for so long and yet people were said to be scurrying everywere to find out how exactly it was made.....and then the method was seemingly lost?????
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Old 5th February 2016, 08:12 AM   #28
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It is interesting, how could you have so many steel manufacturers making a product for so long and yet people were said to be scurrying everywere to find out how exactly it was made.....and then the method was seemingly lost?????


My friend, this is an error - assume that Anosov sought "secret of wootz", traveling to India or Persia. Anosov was - researcher. Anosov studied samples of wootz steel samples which were brought from India, Persia and Central Asia for him. And on the basis of the studied samples of wootz, he developed his own method of smelting wootz steel.

Moreover, note that Ariel wrote:

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... in 1841 captain Massalski published full description of the process he observed in "Persia" ...


It says that in 1841 continued to produce wootz and it was not kept secret.
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Old 5th February 2016, 08:39 AM   #29
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My friend, this is an error - assume that Anosov sought "secret of wootz", traveling to India or Persia. Anosov was - researcher. Anosov studied samples of wootz steel samples which were brought from India, Persia and Central Asia for him. And on the basis of the studied samples of wootz, he developed his own method of smelting wootz steel.

Moreover, note that Ariel wrote:



It says that in 1841 continued to produce wootz and it was not kept secret.
There are records of many people besides Anosov that were seeking methods of steel manufacture in Indian and elsewere, as for captain Massalski, what exactly did he see/report and were did he see it, was he talking about wootz steel or another type of steel.



Science and Civilisation in China: Vol. 5, Chemistry and chemical technology ; Pt. 11, Ferrous metallurgy, Volume 5; Volume 11, by Joseph Needham, 2008.
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Old 5th February 2016, 09:37 AM   #30
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The captain Masalsky writes about of Bulat (wootz) steel smelting. And the smelting of wootz steel exactly the Persians.

I do not know that someone wrote in 2008 Article Masalsky published in 1841:
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