Blacksmithing and the art of goldsmith belong to traditional crafts. Therefore a comparison of archaeological and ethnographic material is used to learn about the making of ancient blacksmithing and goldsmith items (e.g. Rybakov 1948; Oldeberg 1966; Evans 1970; Untracht 1987; Ogden 1992; Eniosova & Saracheva 1997; Peets 2003). Such research method is often supplemented with experimental archaeology (e.g. Svarane 1994; Stemann Petersen 1998; Armbruster et al. 2003; Tamla et al. 2004). This research method realizes that most of the specific knowledge, crafts and working tools required for traditional craftsmanship are so archaic that they may originate from prehistoric times.
Experimental archaeology is especially necessary when ethnographic material for comparison is absent and the researcher is in doubt about the technology and tools used for making the ancient item. In such cases it is recommended to turn to a professional who masters the specific craft and whose experience and skills provide a basis for the practical side of the experiment that either supports or disproves the hypothesis based on archaeological source material and/or the validity of the interpretation based on the external observation of the item.
The international conference on experimental archaeology held in 1999 in Chicago concluded that only experiments with scientific value may be regarded as experimental archaeology. Such an opinion was based on mixing up separate concepts of experimental archaeology as a research method: 'experiment', 'experience' and 'education'. J. R. Mathieu (2002a; 2002b) suggests that the following circumstances are necessary for experimental archaeology to be considered serious research: the experiment either supports or disproves a hypothesis offered by archaeological source material; the experiment must be repeatable; the results of the experiment must be assessable. Regardless of the critical attitude towards experimental archaeology and the scientific credibility of the objects made during the experiments (see Reynolds 1999), it is still admitted that experience is the best teacher: the experience gained through the practical experiment has an important role from the educational and cognitive point. At the same time it is agreed that an experiment can never convey the motives or emotions of the prehistoric person crafting the objects. For example, it is futile to measure the time required for making a replica of a prehistoric object, since the time depends on a number of reasons, including the material, tools, skills, etc., and hence it may only express the prejudices, skills or ineptitude of the person involved in the experiment (Coles 1973). Yet, experimental archaeology may be an invaluable source for reviving forgotten crafts.
In 2008/2009 experimental archaeology was practised in Tallinn by a jeweller and engineer Harvi Varkki. The experiments were motivated by a wish to study more profoundly one of the ancient crafts that was once commonly practised, but which by now has been forgotten (at least in Europe) in the goldsmiths' profession--the making of beaded wire and questions about the technology.
Beaded wire (Perldraht in German) was probably named after its similarity to round pearls on a wire. The earliest examples of beaded wire date from Egypt of the 14th-13th centuries BC. In Europe ornaments decorated with beaded wire were more common in the jewellery of the 8th-6th centuries BC Greece and especially in the high quality art of the Hellenistic period. In northern Europe beaded wire ornaments can be found already from the early Iron Age, but the technique really flourished during the Migration Period and the Viking Age, when beaded wire was mainly used to decorate gold and silver ornaments crafted in filigree and granulation techniques (Duczko 1985, 19; Andersson 1995, 128 ff. and references cited therein; Whitfield 2002). The only prehistoric items decorated with beaded wire found in Estonia are the five gold pendants from the Essu hoard (Fig. …