Wootz is the name given to an exceptional grade of iron ore steel first made in southern and south central India and Sri Lanka perhaps as early as 300 BC. Wootz is formed using a crucible to melt, burn away impurities and add important ingredients, and it contains a high carbon content (nearly 1.5%).
Although iron making was part of Indian culture by as early as 1100 BC (at sites such as Hallur), the earliest evidence for the processing of iron in a crucible has been identified at the site of Kodumanal in Tamil Nadu province, and possibly also at Andhra Pradesh. The term 'wootz' appears in English in the late 18th century, and is probably derived from ukku, the word for crucible steel in the Indian language Kannada, and possibly from 'ekku' in old Tamil.
Wootz steel is the primary component of Damascan steel. Syrian blacksmiths used wootz ingots to produce extraordinary steel weaponry throughout the middle ages.
See the article on Damascus steel for further information.
Sharada Srinivasan and Srinivasa Ranganathan. 2004. India's Legendary Wootz Steel: An advanced material of the ancient world. National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.