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Mass-Produced Mullite Crucibles in Medieval Europe: Manufacture and Material Properties

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Crucibles from the German region of Hesse have been famous since the Middle Ages due to their exceptional quality, regarded by many as a mystery. We analyzed 50 Hessian and non-Hessian archeological crucibles using SEM-EDS, FESEM, and XRD to investigate their technology and material properties. It was revealed that Hessian crucibles were systematically made of kaolinitic clay with a low flux content, mixed with quartz sand, and fired to temperatures in excess of 1300°C. Primary mullite developed in most of the glass matrix, with secondary mullite in some regions of clay–feldspar relict mixtures. Consequently, the vessels showed superior creep and thermal shock resistance, high-temperature strength, and thermal and chemical refractoriness. These crucibles represent the earliest industrial exploitation of mullite in Europe, which explains their historical success.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London WC1H 0PY, UK 2: School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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