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Early Metallurgy in the Central Mediterranean

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Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective

Abstract

This chapter reevaluates the evidence and interpretation of early metallurgical practices and products in the central Mediterranean region, from the Middle Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. The chronology of early metalworking and metal using is fully reassessed based on the most recent findings and radiocarbon dating. It is argued that copper and silver production first appeared in Italy in the late fifth millennium BC and fully developed during the fourth millennium BC, roughly at the same time as north of the Alps. This is suggestive of an east–west mode of transmission of metallurgical knowledge, which would have penetrated into the Italian peninsula from the eastern Alps. During the Copper Age, regional metalworking traditions developed in northern Italy, central Italy and Sardinia based on the manipulation of several metals and alloys including arsenical copper, silver, lead and antimony. This is indicated by variations in the typology and the chemical composition of metalwork in the three areas. Regional differences in the smelting, using and disposing of metal artefacts are also detectable across the central Mediterranean. This suggests that the cultural processes whereby metal technology was incorporated into prehistoric society rested upon context-specific strategies of signification, which turned a potentially meaningless technological innovation into a meaningful set of cultural practices.

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Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Ben Roberts and Chris Thornton for inviting me to contribute to this volume, and for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this chapter. Invaluable feedback was also provided by Gilberto Artioli, Claudio Giardino and Daniel Steiniger, while Paola Mazzieri, Annaluisa Pedrotti and Umberto Tecchiati drew my attention to relevant publications and data. It is understood that all opinions and errors are mine.

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Dolfini, A. (2014). Early Metallurgy in the Central Mediterranean. In: Roberts, B., Thornton, C. (eds) Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-9017-3_18

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