Undoubtedly for the members of the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage ‘Dymarki’ archaeological festival was and still is a tool for popularizing the results of scientific research not only connected with iron metallurgy but also promotion of the archaeology of the Roman times.
The event presentation was enriched with new elements and invitation of performers from the country and from abroad which allowed for experience sharing. The change was positively received by the public and the interest in the festival started to increase.  The porgramme of the festival as a whole became extensive and thus more expensive. It resulted from simultaneous development of both educational and entertainment parts but also from increasing costs of  security, materials and electricity. The event however received a more professional touch. It is difficult to define the present characted of the ‘Dymarki’ enterprise which is an archaeological festival and at the same time a folk, purely entartaining event. What should be the proportions between two major parts of the festival which are independent of one another still remains the subject of a debate.

Cooling of the bronze mould made at the ‘Dymarki’ festival in 1999. Photo by T. Bochnak

The project ‘Man and Iron in the first centuries of our era’ (In a blacksmith’s shop from the Świętokrzyskie region …, 23-62; Orzechowski and others 2008) contains a set of elements. The basic and unchangeable part of the programme is the demonstration of the full cycle of iron production process in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains with the use of slag-pit furnaces (Bielenin 1973, Pleiner 2006). As the next step came the reconstruction of a slag-pit furnace cluster (Bielenin 1992, 89-133) and a working system of such a set of structures within the Świetokrzyskie Center of Experimental Archaeology. Metallurgical workshop covers as well ore roasting/calcinating furnaces and charcoal kilns for wood carbonizing as well as iron ore mine.

In order to familiarize the visitors with the ways of ore mining methods, a reconstruction was prepared of elements of a deep mine discovered in Rudki near Nowa Słupia. It has a form of two shafts connected by a drift located 3m deep into the ground (Bielenin 1992, 147-152; Czernek 2006). The extension of the Center enabled reconstruction of a few workshops – furnace clusters in a variety of layouts. The system of the so-called ‘ordered’ furnace cluster was presented for the first time within the project already in 2000. A smith’s workshop complemented the structure as a place enabling to melt the surface of the iron bloom obtained within the process [1], though its basic function was demonstration of production of small tools and objects of everyday use from a ready raw material (Sławiński 2003). Presentation of tools, decorations and weapon allows for estimation of ancient workshops’ efficiency, comparison of smith’s technology used in the Barbaricum area with this characteristic of Roman provinces. The practical form of demonstration is based on the analysis of the original relics (compare Sławiński 2005). During the experiments it is important to indicate the specific character of the Świętokrzystkie metallurgical district thus they are intertwined with a set of lectures. Since 2009 metallurgical demonstration has been kept in the convention of technological comparisons, at first to the structures known from the territory of Denmark reconstructed by a specialist from the Heltborg Museum - Jensa Jørgena Olesen. Later also teams from Mazovia and Silesia were invited to participate[2]. The effect of works of the colleagues from Lower Silesian district was the reconstruction of a large slag-pit furnace based on the source from the Tarchalice village in the Wołów commune (Hołubowicz 1954; Madera 2002, 69; Pleiner 2006, 140). The plans for the near future include also the reconstruction of the set of slag-pit furnaces from Igołomnia (Igołomia-Wawrzeńczyce commune) in the Małopolskie province ( Reyman 1952; Pleiner 2006, 138, pict. 3.6). A set of metallurgical devices planned for reconstruction on the basis of the finds in Martys (Domerque and others 1993) seems an interesting complementation of the discussed comparisons with an aspect of iron metallurgy from the territory of Roman provinces. We hope that the multi-layered demonstrations at the ‘Dymarki’ festival will allow promoting it as space to share experience and present results of experimental works connected with ancient ‘black’ metallurgy sensu lato.

Slag-pit furnace of the Mazovia Ancient Metallurgy Museum in Pruszków during the ‘Dymarki 2011’ archaeological festival on the slag-pit furnace cluster in Nowa Słupia. Photo by W. Habdas.

One of the most important forms of spreading knowledge is handicraftsmen’s shows which gather the largest group of presenters. It is no surprise since these shows present various aspects of human historical activity of southern and central part of the Polish lands which allow reconstructing a fairly complete picture of the everyday life in the Roman times. We do not consider in this case their direct impact on our national culture but rather its obvious influence on the development of what we are used to name the European civilization. Therefore the presentation covers Celtic influences as well dominating before the cultural impulses from the Roman provinces became predominant [3]. The development of crafts skills even indicating distant historical periods (early Iron Age) allows us to trace a variety of trends shaping material and spiritual culture of many nations. Relation to the Roman Empire demonstrates on the one hand the direction of stylistic influences and on the other hand allows to compare the presented skills and goods as well as technical possibilities. The proposed shows cover the majority of practical skills known from archaeological sources. Those of special attention are connected with metallurgy (smithing, bronzing and goldsmith’s work) as corresponding to the metallurgical experiments. Other important demonstrations are those illustrating how a variety of needs were satisfied in the Przeworsk and Wielbark cultures as well as within the Roman provinces. Undoubtedly one of the most significant is pottery, not only because ceramics is still amongst the key archaeological sources but also because it frequently decides about distinguishing styles and cultures (Matoga and others 2008). Visitors especially like pottery presentations such as: utensils being handmade of tapes and rolls, turning on the lathe or making mould impressions (technology used in Roman provinces in the case of the so-called terra sigilata or oil lamps). Ceramics does not only mean utensils therefore there is a wide range of goods and techniques for presentation. Other activities connected with the preparation of a ceramic clay body, finishing of ready goods or baking complement the shows. Baking of pottery in furnaces or bonfires are the show elements that remain of visitors’ great interest.  Hence the necessity to prepare the supply base for these types of shows was very important. Therefore a set of two pottery furnaces with a pit was reconstructed on the basis of structures (piece 3/1952 and 4/1952) discovered and documented in Igołomnia near Cracow (Dobrzańska 1990, 151, table LXI). There is also a plan to build in the Roman zone elements of industrial ‘character’ in the form of already mentioned metallurgical devices and a furnace for baking terra sigillata pottery reconstructed on the basis of one of the structures discovered in Rheinzabern.

Cross-section of the reconstruction of a pottery furnace for baking terra sigillata: Schulz, Schellenberger 1996, 18, Pic. 5

Apart from craftsmen there is a group of people dealing with presentations relating more generally to everyday life in the Roman times [4]. The presentation received a form of a comparison of two very different realities existing next to one another – the Roman world and the world of the so-called Barbarians living outside the borders of the Empire. Providing a ‘perspective shortcut’ and transferring of elements connected with the everyday life in the Roman Empire to the place where they never existed in reality is justified by the educational character of the ‘Dymarki’ event and the Center itself. It is difficult to expect from the visitors the correct perception of the presented reality without the presentation of elements relating to the territory whose influences gave the name to the period of activity of the slag-pit furnace metallurgists from the Świętokrzystkie region.  The description ‘Roman period’ became clearer to the visitors from the moment a Roman legation was introduced into the project in 2001[5]. The development of presentations on the Roman provinces or the construction of the infrastructure defined as the ‘Roman zone’ within the Center is neither an excuse for creating a legend about a Roman ‘trading-post’ or a ‘station’ functioning in Nowa Słupia nor any relation with a once voiced opinions about the export of iron from the Świętokrzystkie region to the Roman Empire (Bielenin 1992, 199). Reconstruction of a fragment of the Roman limes and aspects connected with the handicraft and everyday life in the zone, in reality quite distant from the Polish lands, give a kind of historical ‘frame’ for the presentation enabling picturing of a variety of contacts between the two worlds. Such comparison also allows us to realise how often we use general opinion related to the Roman times which are far from the current level of knowledge on the topic. Professional presentation of the two zones separate but influencing one another is the basic mission of the ‘Dymarki’ project together with the aspects connected with iron metallurgy. Unquestionable impact of ancient culture on shaping of the Polish national culture allows reaching the archetypal notions and behaviours linked to the everyday life by presentations relating widely to the heritage of the ancient times. Highlighting the influence of the Greek-Roman civilization on the people living in modern Europe allows the visitors to discover the roots of their own identity in the set of presented issues. A unique educational role belongs to stagings and happenings prepared by the ‘Terra Operta’ foundation and  the ‘Hellas et Roma’ association or elements of the ancient military service in the presentations of groups reconstructing colour and weapon of the Roman legions (Legio XIIII GMV or Legio XXI Rapax).
Professionals cooperating on the project ‘Man and Iron in the first centuries of our era’ conduct their activities in a variety of areas:
Presentation of clothing, decorative pieces and clothing-related habits;

  • Direct contacts with the audience in order to provide information on the key aspects of the project and demonstrations in a simplified way;
  • Presentation of the varieties in weapons and combat styles;
  • Workshops for the audience and engaging the visitors in different forms of interaction;
  • Presentation of a variety of handicraft both as presentation of the production process, used tools and ready goods;
  • Promotional activities encouraging visitors to participate in the project;
  • Demonstrations of habits and everyday life activities in the form of happenings and shows;
  • Shows of a more spectacular character being the most ‘entertaining’ form of spreading knowledge;

We should clarify at this point the spectacular character of the shows. The step by step development of the project ‘Man and Iron in the first centuries of our era’ caused a significant increase not only in the number of presenters. The way of influencing the visitor also changed and shows gathering large audiences became more and more important. It is not a new phenomenon in the history of the ‘Dymarki’ festival as the dismantling of a slag-pit furnace as the culmination of the metallurgical demonstration has also so far been a show drawing the attention of a wide audience.  Comparing the skills of the experimenting scientists and possibilities connected with used raw materials and presentation of a range of production structures from the Roman period creates the atmosphere of concentration on skills of the ancient people in the area of iron metallurgy. In new territorial conditions metallurgical demonstrations still require remodeling however dedicating the area of the former ‘slag-pit furnace cluster’ solely to the presentations allows for their independence of other elements and increased interest in the effects of metallurgits’ work. They become more tangible because visitors can currently follow the complete process on a few sites – from preparation of the raw material and furnaces [6] to obtaining a ready forgeable piece of iron. It is worth adding that it would not be possible without cooperation of scientists from different centers.

From the moment new groups arrived in the ‘slag-pit furnace cluster’ to reconstruct various aspects of everyday life in the Roman times as well as contacts between the Roman Empire and the so-called ‘Barbaricum’, it turned out that dismantling of a slag-pit furnace could not be the final element of the presentation. It resulted from the introduction to the programme new happenings and shows whose part took place after the main metallurgical demonstration. Currently they are organized in different parts of the Center so their number or time are not strictly limited.  We should also mention that all shows with the use of fire and a visible influence of high temperature such as work of a slag-pit furnace, roasting/calcinating of iron ore, baking pottery in the fire or a pottery furnace, work in the blacksmith’s shop, casting bronze or silver objects or making glass beads draw attention of large audiences. Practically every stage in the activities of the mentioned sites attracts visitors.

Demonstration of obtaining birch tar with the use of a two-utensil method during ‘Dymarki’ in 2011. Photo by W. Habdas.

Skirmish shows are also very popular amongst the visitors. Participation in the reconstructed Battle of the Teutoburg Forest [7] clearly indicates that the aspect of military contacts both between tribes and between Romans and Barbarians are interesting and very spectacular forms of spreading knowledge on the period. First military shows within the project ‘Man and Iron in the first centuries of our era’ were organized in 2008[8]. Since then the scenario of these presentations have evolved under the influence of observations and participation in reconstructions of this type during other festivals. The main function of the spectacles is the comparison of the tactics, combat possibilities and weapons of military units whose fights are the subject of presentations. They complement the earlier lectures and demonstrations of clothing and armour of Barbarian warriors as well as Roman soldiers who are a regular project element.
Engagement of almost 200 people in such a variety of activities is not an exaggeration. The main problem is covering the cost of participation of all these people who support the project travelling frequently quite long distances. Apart from presenters from Denmark, there are also craftsmen from Belarus (a group representing the so-called ‘Belarus settlement’) and people from Czech - Familia Gladiatoria Tavrvs. An important contribution is also that of German reconstructors – the so-called Comitatus – informal association of groups promoting knowledge on the everyday life and habits of the Germans from the Roman period. Owing to the Comitatus’ positive opinion people engaged in the project ‘Man and iron in the first centuries of our era’ participated in 2009 in the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the defeat of Varus in the Teutoburg Forest. It is worth mentioning that this cooperation as well as indication of the ethnic character of the tribes living also on the Polish lands during the Roman period have no traces of ‘Germanphilia’. They remain a significant element highlighting the subject-matter side of the presentation of the Roman times based on the sources and the current status of available knowledge. It is to make the visitors aware that the presented ‘slag-pit furnace’ reality has no link with a legendary idyllic picture of the former ‘Dymarki’ festival and at the same time has no relation to the present ethnic situation or even that of Middle Ages or Modern Times. One should not search for nationality-based ‘succession’ in these activities as i.e. connections of contemporary Germans with the German tribes from the Roman period are practically the same as those of the French, the English, the Italians or even the Spaniards.  Information that the successors of the archaeological heritage are truly the societies from the countries in which discoveries and made and research conducted irrespective of the supposed ethnical character of the people living on the given territory is another message that is promoted by the presence of presenters from different countries during the ‘Dymarki’ festival. There is no place for the dispute over ethnic status because both German archaeologist conducting research on the settlement of the Polabian Slavs and Polish scientists working on the Przeworsk or Wielbark cultures are responsible for the proper popularization and spreading knowledge on the heritage of the above cultural units. Also in the case of reconstruction of the Roman army or elements of everyday life it is difficult to claim that the only nation eligible to do that are the Italians though it is again another nationality whose representatives were invited to join in the organization of the ‘Dymarki’ event in 2011[9].

‘Natale di Roma 2009’. Members of the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage and Legio XIIII GMV on Circus Maximus in Rome. Photo by M. Rakalska.

One of the reasons for the international character of the event in Nowa Słupia is the participation of the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage in various enterprises both in the country and abroad such as ‘Scientific Picnic of the Polish Radio and the Copernicus Scientific Center’, ‘Roman weekend’ in the location of a reconstructed medieval city in Wrocław-Partynice [10], ‘Historical village of  Łódź’ [11] , ‘1850th anniversary of the Kalisz city’ [12], the already mentioned ‘Varusschlacht 2009’, ‘Camp of Crafts’ in Örnafälla in Scania or ‘Natale di Roma’ in Rome. Apart from contacts started during the presentations another important aspect is the promotion of the project abroad. A ‘slag-pit furnace forum’ launched in October 2008 became an Internet platform for the exchange of information and new concepts related to reconstructions and presentations. Scientific and research work of the members of the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage is closely linked with their active participation in popularizing and educational enterprises which demonstrates itself in publications from conferences organized in the years 2000 and 2005 and devoted to ancient iron metallurgy (compare: Metallurgy in the Świętokrzystkie region …; 50 years of research ….). Establishing cooperation with the Kielce Scientific Society, The Museum of Nature and Technology in Starachowice or lately the National Museum in Kielce also promotes the project ‘Man and iron in the first centuries of our era’.

[1] It should be noted that the current results of slag-pit furnace experiments are not sufficient for the process reconstruction reflecting effects of ancient metallurgists’ work. Obtaining iron from a slag-pit furnace is however possible and the last presentation at the ‘Dymarki’ festival was finished with smithing contaminated iron bloom from reconstructed experimental metallurgical units.

[2] Employees of the Museum of Ancient Mazovia Metallurgy in Pruszków have been in the project since the year 2010 while in 2011 representatives of theWrocław Municipal Museum (a branch of the Archaeological Museum) joined the enterprise together with the Dymarki Eco museum in Tarchalice. Compare: Co-authors of the ‘Dymarki’ festival.
[3] Introduction of the elements connected with the La Tène culturewas originated by the members of the ‘Celtica’ association.
Compare: Co-authors of the ‘Dymarki’ festival.
[4] In the years 1999-2006 the majority of the project presenters were students and graduates of the Institute of Archaeology at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy-Cracow, the Institute of History at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, the Institute of Archaeology at the University in Rzeszów, the Institute of Archaeology at the Warsaw University.  Compare: Co-authors of the ‘Dymarki’ festival.  Many of them still participate in the project partly representing various associations or other institutions cooperating with the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage. It is worth adding that the project ‘Man and iron in the first centuries of our era’ is continuously supported by the Institute of Archaeology at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and also received positive opinions of the Monumenta Archaeologica Barbarica Foundation, the Museum of Opole Silesia and the Rzeszów Archaeological Center.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those institutions that offered their support.
[5] The first presentation of the present Pro Antica society took place in 2001 during the ‘Dymarki’ archaeological festival. They were then engaged in the project of the Institute of History at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin entitled ‘Roman Legionary’ and conducted by Dr. Stanisław Ducin. This group of presenters refers to history, military equipment as well as everyday life of Roman soldiers from Legio XIIII Gemina Martia Victrix.
Compare: Co-authors of the ‘Dymarki’ festival.
[6]Although the presentations refer currently exclusively to slag-pit furnaces , whose basic construction elements are similar, their differentiation is visible in other shaft  solutions which only in the case of the furnaces from the Świętokrzystkie region are made of loess shaped stones while other ones of clay rolls and tapes sometimes using also wooden elements. During experimental iron casting the iron ores used are characteristic of various production centers. The tests cover also trials to reconstruct the process with the use of bellows as well as natural air-blast.
[7] ‘Man and iron in the first centuries of our era’ project members were invited by the Museum und Park Kalkriese near Osnabrück to participate as the ‘Iron Roots’ group in the festival organized for the 2000th anniversary of the defeat of Varus in the Teutoburg Forest (Varusschlacht 2009). The battle was reconstructed with the participation of over 300 presenters from a few European countries.
[8] During the first ‘Iron Roots’ event.
[9] In 2011 the Vocis Imago Romae group from Parma joined the ‘slag-pit furnace’ project. Cooperation with this group started when the Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage members participated in anniversaries of the Roman city foundation (Natale di Roma) in the years 2008-2010.

[10] The structure in Partynice was built and opened to public from the initiative of the Lower Silesian Forum of the Cultural Environment – ‘Millenium’ and the President of Wrocław.
[11] The Świetokrzyskie Association of Industrial Heritage participated in two editions of this enterprise organized by the NEO Association from Łódź invited by the Harjis Group (compare: Co-authors of the ‘Dymarki’ festival) known under the name of Dagome.

 [12] The festival was organised by the City Council of Kalisz within the promotional project called ‘Amber Expedition’.