Early Bronze Age Metallurgy in the North-East Aegean
The accelerated cultural and technological development in the Aegean in the third millennium b.c. has been interpreted by two mutually exclusive models, namely diffusion of materials, technology, and/or population, on the one hand, and indigenous development triggered by two innovations, namely domestication of the olive tree and especially the discovery and introduction of bronze technology. The second model implicitly assumed the presence of a geological tin source in the Aegean. The fact that such a source has not been found was attributed to possible depletion of a minor occurrence. Extended field studies have resulted in a realistic assessment of the potential of the Troad for ancient miners and smelters. It turns out that lead (and silver), copper and gold were available and produced in the Bronze Age, but tin remains elusive. Geochemical, especially lead isotope studies of ores, slags, and metal artefacts have shown that practically all ore mineralisations in the Troad exhibit only a relatively small variation in their lead isotope ratios. Interestingly, the earlier artefacts of the first half of the third millennium b.c. are mostly consistent with having been derived from regional ores while a large part of the later artefacts dating to the Troia II period are significantly different from all hitherto analysed ores from the Aegean and Anatolia. Although negative, this evidence nevertheless indicates long-distance trade. Therefore, even if a small occurrence of tin should ever be found in the region then it will most likely be isotopically different from most of the bronze artefacts that have been available for analysis. This result makes the model of indigenous development highly unlikely and re-establishes the older ideas of diffusion (trade in its widest sense) of at least copper and tin. For lead and silver objects there are isotopically matching ore deposits in the Troad and in the Aegean, but the separation of lead and silver by cupelleation seem to have been introduced in the Near East earlier than in the Aegean. Finally, the distribution of early bronze artefacts is reviewed and the possible provenance of the tin shortly discussed.
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