Oxford Instruments very kindly brought their handheld XRF machine to the York so that we could examine some of the ferrous material we had gathered.

We wanted to check the ironwork because, during the course of the project, it has gradually become clear that the iron was being re-processed around the area. Because this has never been positively identified around any other battle from this era, it was important to find out as much as possible as the bits and pieces.

We could not be sure what we would find: the results have helped to confirm the working hypothesis that this was post-battle metal-recycling. But the XRF data has provided an insight that will take some time to understand.  

What is X Ray Fluorescence?

This clever device shines xrays at the surface and records what bounces back. (This is like shining a special torch but you would need x-ray eyes to see the reflection).

(Left) Richard, from Oxford Instruments, holds the X-MET5000 machine to measure the composition of the axe head billet.

The machine allowed us to screen any modern material and has revealed several interesting groups of iron and the significance of this is now being investigated.

By revealing the composition of the iron it has provided a fresh insight into the items collected.



(Right) Paul and Wilf from the York Metal Detectorists Club were on hand to help layout the material. The Club worked over many seasons to collect the material from Fulford.

While the XRF work was in progress they checked through the non-ferrous material to make sure that nothing significant had been overlooked.

(Above) The laboratory at King's Manor, at the University of York, was kindly lent to us for 5 days along with two skilful technicians.

One table was devoted to each of the hearth areas identified. Around 300 items were measured from the collection of nearly 2000 ferrous pieces collected by the metal detectorists.

It will take 6 months to analyse all the data produced. The key finding is that the items tested are all pre-industrial (apart from a few test pieces that were slipped into the mix).


Some brilliant technology enabled a small xray source which dose not require its own power station to be constructed. Xray 'excite' the target surface which then emit a pulse.

The machine then does some very clever calculations to work out which elements, and how much of them, are present in the sample. It can do this because it every element has a 'fingerprint' of the radiations it emits.

We hope to use this machine's versatile capabilities to examine the soil from selected areas for traces of iron.


A very big thank-you to Oxford Instruments for all their help (This was the second time they have helped on the Fulford project).

And to the staff and students at the Department of Archaeology at the University of York  for accommodating and working round us.

Without the assistance and guidance of so many people during this project, we could not have achieved such an insight into our past.