PDA

View Full Version : Burial reveals complex origins of metallurgy



MfA
06-05-2014, 11:14 AM
The origin of metallurgy in the ancient Near East is well attested in the southern Levant, with rich assemblages of copper artefacts from the Nahal Mishmar cave and the unique gold rings of the Nahal Qanah cave, confirming this as the main centre during the second half of the 5th millennium CalBC.
New evidence has come to light in the form of a copper awl from a Middle Chalcolithic burial at Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley, Israel, suggesting that cast metal technology was introduced to the region as early as the late 6th millennium CalBC.

Middle Chalcolithic phase
Tel Tsaf is an archaeological site south-east of Beit She’an, and in 2004–2007 a large excavation project was conducted by Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Tel Tsaf is dated to ca. 5100–4600 CalBC, sometimes called the Middle Chalcolithic, a little-known period in the archaeology of the Levant, post-dating the Wadi Rabah phase and pre-dating the Ghassulian Chalcolithic phase.

Tel Tsaf contained a rich assemblage of over 2,500 beads made of ostrich egg-shell, obsidian items originating in Anatolia or Armenia, four Ubaid pottery shards imported from either north Syria or Mesopotamia and a Nilotic shell from Egypt. These finds exhibit connections of unexpected distance and diversity.

High status trading family
The results indicate that it was made from a natural tin-copper and brought from a distant source, probably the Caucasus, and transported to the Jordan Valley via long-distance exchange networks, which also brought obsidian, groundstone items and other goods from Armenia, Anatolia and Syria through the Levantine Corridor. This infers a high status on the occupants of Courtyard Building I; a family or selected group within the community that quite possibly controlled local cultivation and storage of grain as well as long-distance trade.

Source (http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2014/burial-reveals-complex-origins-of-metallurgy)

Abstract:


The beginning of metallurgy in the ancient Near East attracts much attention. The southern Levant, with the rich assemblage of copper artifacts from the Nahal Mishmar cave and the unique gold rings of the Nahal Qanah cave, is regarded as a main center of early metallurgy during the second half of the 5th millennium CalBC. However, a recently discovered copper awl from a Middle Chalcolithic burial at Tel Tsaf, Jordan Valley, Israel, suggests that cast metal technology was introduced to the region as early as the late 6th millennium CalBC. This paper examines the chemical composition of this item and reviews its context. The results indicate that it was exported from a distant source, probably in the Caucasus, and that the location where it was found is indicative of the social status of the buried individual. This rare finding indicates that metallurgy was first defused to the southern Levant through exchange networks and only centuries later involved local production. This copper awl, the earliest metal artifact found in the southern Levant, indicates that the elaborate Late Chalcolithic metallurgy developed from a more ancient tradition.

Paper (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0092591)

Geolocke
06-05-2014, 04:49 PM
Thanks for the article. I'm always fascinated how it seems that the more we learn out our great ancestor's, the more advanced their civilization appears to have been.

Stellaritic
06-05-2014, 05:59 PM
I don't understand what they meant by"probably from the Caucasus"!
I remember watching a documentary about a certain golden neolithic artifact discovered in Germany,the team was able to determine the origin of the metals precisely,so why not with this one ?

According to an initial analysis of trace elements by x-ray fluorescence by E. Pernicka, then at the University of Freiberg, the copper originated at Bischofshofen in Austria, while the gold was thought to be from the Carpathian Mountains. A more recent analysis found that the gold used in the first phase was from the river Carnon in Cornwall. The tin content of the bronze was also from Cornwall.[
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebra_sky_disk#Origin_of_the_metals

MfA
06-05-2014, 06:28 PM
I don't understand what they meant by"probably from the Caucasus"!

You can read the related context at the discussion section.


Recently, new data on very early copper artifacts in the northeastern Near East and the Balkans indicate that tin was found in some of the early metal items known in this area [35]–[37]. Another example comes from the Late Neolithic mound of Aruchlo I in Georgia, 5800–5300 CalBC [38]. This is a heavily corroded, small, ring-shaped bead, and therefore it is unclear whether it was cast or hammered. XRF-analysis identifies copper, iron, arsenic and a larger amount of tin. It was suggested that the object was made from a polymetallic raw-material, i.e. a natural copper-tin alloy [38]–[39]. A final analysis of the bead recently confirmed a copper-based (84.991%) alloy with high amounts of tin (8.350%) as well as arsenic (3.016%) and iron (3.643%) [40].

Even though it could be argued that the items from Aruchlo I and Tel Tsaf are later intrusions which were brought into earlier archaeological layers by post-depositional processes, this seems to be less plausible because there are no known later settlement traces at either site. Since artificial alloying would also be very improbable at such an early time, a natural copper-tin alloy is, at the moment, an interpretation worth considering. Copper sources with a natural tin-copper alloy are known inter alia in Mušiston, Tajikistan [41]–[42]. The easy availability of tin and the knowledge of natural tin-copper alloys could be one reason why the alloying of tin-bronze took place in the Caucasus significantly earlier than in neighboring regions, namely in the 4th millennium CalBC [43].

If one accepts the Aruchlo I bead as non-intrusive, it demonstrates the possibility of the extraction and use of natural tin-copper alloys as early as the 6th millennium CalBC. This, in turn, also opens the possibility that the item from Tel Tsaf was made from a natural tin-copper source and transported to the Jordan Valley via long-distance exchange networks, which also brought obsidian, groundstone items and other goods from Armenia, Anatolia and Syria through the Levantine Corridor [44]. If this is the case, then the copper awl from Tel Tsaf could have reached the site through exchange. The context and typology of the awl support the interpretation that the artifact belongs to the Middle Chalcolithic period: