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Archaeology, science-based archaeology and the Mediterranean Bronze Age metals trade: a contribution to the debate

  • Noel Gale (a1)

Abstract

The current consensus is outlined about the application of lead isotope analyses to metal provenance studies and to the unravelling of the Mediterranean Bronze Age copper trade, with special reference to copper oxhide ingots. Various misconceptions, especially some of those contained in Knapp (1999, 2000), are corrected. It is shown that there is no need to fall back on hypotheses based upon the Mediterranean-wide mixing/recycling of copper metals to explain the lead isotope characteristics of post-1250 BC copper oxhide ingots, since there is a good isotopic coincidence between these ingots and the Apliki region ore deposits in Cyprus. Weaknesses are exposed in the hypotheses of direct or indirect pooling of Cypriot ores, and of the proposed widespread recycling of metals in a Mediterranean-wide koine, particularly since there is no evidence for a homogeneity of lead isotope composition in artefacts and no tin in the oxhide ingots.

Les grandes lignes du consensus actuel se fondent sur les conclusions d'analyses isotopiques du plomb provenant d'études sur l'origine du métal et sur les indications qu'apporte la structure du commerce du cuivre pendant l'âge de bronze en Méditerranée, en retenant spécialement les lingots de cuivre ‘peau de boeuf’. Plusieurs approches erronées, surtout celles publiées par Knapp (1999, 2000), sont revues et corrigées. Il est démontré que le recours à des hypothèses fondées sur le mélange et recyclage du cuivre exercés partout en Méditerranée pour expliquer les caractéristiques de l'isotope de plomb des lingots de cuivre ‘peau de boeuf’ plus jeunes que 1250 avant J-C est superfétatoire: il y a une corrélation isotopique entre ces lingots et les dépôts de minerais de la région d'Apliki en Chypre. Les points faibles des hypothèses soutenant un regroupement, direct ou indirect, des minerais de Chypre et un recyclage général des métaux dans une koine méditerranéenne sont dévoilés, en considérant surtout le défaut de preuve en ce qui concerne l'homogénéité de la composition des isotopes de plomb dans les divers objets archéologiques et l'absence d'étain dans les lingots ‘peau de boeuf’.

Zusammenfassung

Der vorliegende Beitrag behandelt unter besonderer Beachtung der sogenannten kupfernen ‘Ochsenhautbarren’ die Anwendung der Bleiisotopenanalyse für Untersuchungen zur Herkunft von Metall und die Klärung des bronzezeitlichen Metallhandels. Verschiedene Fehlkonzeptionen, besonders die bei Knapp (1999, 2000) genannten, werden berichtigt. Es wird gezeigt, daß es keinen Grund gibt, zur Erklärung der Charakteristika der Bleiisotopen von ‘Ochsenhautbarren’ nach 1250 BC, erneut auf die Theorie einer mittelmeerweiten Vermischung bzw. eines Recycling zurückzugreifen, da eine gute isotopische Übereinstimmung dieser Barren mit der Erzlagerstättevon Apliki auf Zypern besteht. Schwächen der Hypothesen einer direkten oder indirekten Zusammenfassung zypriotischer Erze und eines postulierten verbreiteten Metall-Recyclings in einer mediterranen koine werden in Ermangelung eines Beweises für die Homogenität der Bleiisotopenzusammensetzung von Artefakten sowie des Fehlens von Zinn in den ‘Ochsenhautbarren’ herausgearbeitet.

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Archaeology, science-based archaeology and the Mediterranean Bronze Age metals trade: a contribution to the debate

  • Noel Gale (a1)

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