Scientists Study Medieval Gunpowder

A gunpowder made from mixture of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur -- like the gunpowder used in the 14th century -- equals the explosive force of the 20th century version, according to a report presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The discovery happened by chance, as Robert Smith of Britain's Royal Armouries experimented with modern and medieval gunpowders in replica firearms.

Inspired by that discovery, Smith and his colleagues have set about to try to recreate the exact conditions in which some of the ingredients for gunpowder were created, and are hoping to be able to extract saltpeter from chicken manure, pigs' urine and straw in a pit in a Danish medieval village.