The making and selling of wootz, a crucible steel of India
Published on Jan 1, 1986
The paper focuses on the history and ethnology of wootz, a traditional crucible steel from India, made from the second century AD on, that is best known as the raw material for Damascus swords. Much of what has been written about wootz over the past two centuries is incorrect; when the myths have been cleared away, wootz appears in a new light. It was made in the Middle East as well as in India. More than one process existed for making it. It had a number of distinct uses, some of them having nothing to do with weapons. Contrary to the assertions of various ancient and modern authorities, there is little evidence that wootz was a supersteel. It made excellent wire and handsome display weapons, but among fighting men it had a long-standing and seemingly deserved reputation for dangerous brittleness. The author presents a critical review of the early literature with historical perspective, summarizes and evaluates eye-witness accounts of wootz-making, and, after describing the individual regional processes, states that we should temper our expectations with regard to the antiquity of wootz processes and our expectations about rediscovering ancient technological secrets that will lead to the production of supersteels on superweapons in our own day.