ArticlePDF Available

Iberia: Technological development of prehistoric metallurgy

Article

Iberia: Technological development of prehistoric metallurgy

FORSCHUNGSCLUSTER 2
Innovationen: technisch, sozial
Metal Matters
Innovative Technologies and Social Change in Prehistory
and Antiquity
Stefan Burmeister, Svend Hansen,
Michael Kunst and Nils Müller-Scheeßel (Eds.)
VIII, 282 Seiten mit 188 Abbildungen und 5 Tabellen
Titelvignette: Wordcloud des englischsprachigen Forschungsprofils von Cluster 2 (s. S. 1, Abb. 1 in diesem Band)
Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek
Burmeister, Stefan / Hansen, Svend / Kunst, Michael / Müller-Scheeßel, Nils (Eds.):
Metal Matters ; Innovative Technologies and Social Change in Prehistory and Antiquity.
Rahden/Westf.: Leidorf 2013
(Menschen – Kulturen – Traditionen ; ForschungsCluster 2 ; Bd. 12)
ISBN 978-3-86757-392-4
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie.
Detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über http://dnb.d-nb.de abrufbar.
Gedruckt auf alterungsbeständigem Papier
Alle Rechte vorbehalten
© 2013
Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH
Geschäftsführer: Dr. Bert Wiegel
Stellerloh 65 · D-32369 Rahden/Westf.
Tel: +49/ (0) 57 71/95 10-74
Fax: +49/(0) 57 71/95 10-75
E-Mail: info@vml.de
Internet: http://www.vml.de
ISBN 978-3-86757-392-4
ISSN 2193-5300
Kein Teil des Buches darf in irgendeiner Form (Druck, Fotokopie, CD-ROM, DVD, BLUERAY, Internet oder einem
anderen Verfahren) ohne schriftliche Genehmigung des Verlages Marie Leidorf GmbH reproduziert werden
oder unter Verwendung elektronischer Systeme verarbeitet, vervielfältigt oder verbreitet werden.
Umschlagentwurf und Standard-Layout: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin
Lektorat und Redaktion: Stefan Burmeister, Hamburg; Nils Müller-Scheeßel, Frankfurt/Main; Emily Schalk, Berlin
http://www.dainst.org
Satz, Layout und Bildnachbearbeitung: stm | media GmbH, Köthen/Anhalt
Druck und Produktion: IMPRESS Druckerei Halbritter KG, Halle/Saale
1 Maddin et al. 1991.
2 Roberts et al. 2009.
3 Ruiz Taboada – Montero 1999.
4 Rovira 2002a, 6; Barthelheim – Montero-Ruiz 2009, 9 10.
5 Hauptmann et al. 1996; Rovira – Ambert 2002.
6 Rovira 2004, 12.
Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy
Salvador Rovira and Ignacio Montero-Ruiz
Abstract
Evidence for copper production dates back as early as the
local Middle Neolithic (5th millennium cal BC), that is, earlier
than in the surrounding countries. After a long hiatus, the
spread of metallurgy was well established in the first half of
the 3rd millennium cal BC. From the point of view of techno-
logy, this early metallurgy is characterized by working oxide
ores that were easy to reduce in open fire structures with the
use of smelting crucibles. The facet that makes the Iberian
Peninsula a singular place when compared to other European
and Eastern Mediterranean regions is that this very simple
metallurgical technology lasted without appreciable changes
up to pre-Roman times, despite the fact that other metallur-
gical advances such as tin-bronze making were accepted and
adapted very early to local needs. Some topics concerning
the main subject here (the primitive traits of the prehistoric
Iberian metallurgy) are discussed in this contribution.
Background for early metallurgy
The degree of skilfulness in the early use of metals in pre-
historic societies points towards at least two essential pre-
conditions: a) the existence of metal ore resources within the
geographical environment, in which these societies devel-
oped, and b) a certain degree of social and cultural complex-
ity for the »discovery« of the metal to be appreciated and to
advance its use. These pre-conditions seem to apply in view
of the findings of objects made of native copper in sites such
as Çäyonü Tepesi (Turkey), in a cultural horizon dated to the
Preceramic Neolithic in the 8th millennium BC.1 However, it
was a long way from the use of the first metal (native cop-
per in this case) to the inception of real metallurgy, during
which the prehistoric artisans had to learn about the physical
and chemical properties of the ores through empirical assays,
how to extract metal from them, as well as how to manipu-
late the metal to produce useful artefacts, thereby exploiting
the possibilities of shaping. Slags are the clearest archaeolog-
ical evidence for true metallurgy; the oldest finds of slags do
not seem to be earlier than the 6th millennium BC in the Near
East.2
The Iberian Peninsula appears to be no exception, al-
though at present we have no secure evidence of the use
of native copper. However, excavations at the site of Cerro
Virtud (Cuevas del Almanzora, Almería) apparently have re-
vealed a first metallurgy that would evolve into a full Neo-
lithic context.3 This site is located in the southeastern area of
Spain that bears abundant metal resources, which later led to
a flourishing Chalcolithic with sites like Los Millares (Santa Fe
de Mondújar, Almería) and Almizaraque (Cuevas del Alman-
zora, Almería), among others.
The Iberian Peninsula has abundant copper ore resources
in virtually all of its vast mountainous geography, the
majority being surface mineralisations. This must have pro-
vided favourable conditions for the initial spread of metal-
lurgy throughout the territory.4
The character of early copper as a replacement mate-
rial should be emphasized. Copper was not a new material
that, in principle, gave rise to new applications even in the
full Chalcolithic period and much later. Basically, it joined the
group of materials that covered the needs that the respective
society had already solved in other ways. This explains, on
the one hand, the utilitarian significance that would always
accompany metal in the Old World (in America things turned
out radically different), and on the other hand, the slow pace
from introduction of copper to substitution of other materi-
als such as bone and stone, whose employment led over
many years to the development of technologically highly re-
fined solutions, and whose functionality was initially not seen
to be superseded by copper.
Contrary to common belief, obtaining copper from ox-
ide minerals (cuprite, malachite, azurite) is a relatively simple
process. Among all the metals of »industrial« interest in pre-
history, ore-to-metal processing as in the case of copper re-
quires the lowest energy consumption, and the thermal and
chemical environment necessary is easily achievable. For this
reason copper was the first metal obtained by people using
pyrometallurgical processes, once they had acquired suffi-
cient knowledge about controlling fire. The little difficulty in
accomplishing the first links in the chaîne opératoire is archae-
ologically reflected in very simple metallurgical installations in
those places, in which it has been possible to study the oldest
remains of copper-obtaining debris.5 We call these early pro-
cesses »metalurgia de pucheros« (cooking-pot metallurgy),6
alluding to the use of unspecialised vessels as containers for
reducing the ores, heating upon open fires, as an antecedent
stage prior to the invention of the true metallurgical furnace.
Salvador Rovira and Ignacio Montero-Ruiz232
7 Consuegra et al. 2004; Capote et al. 2006.
8 Villalba et al. 1986; Bosch 2005.
9 The earlier date obtained from antler is 4090 ± 70 BP (OxA 1833).
10 de Blas 2005.
11 de Blas 2005, 197 198.
12 Rovira 2002b, 86, tab. 3; Hunt 2003.
13 Müller et al. 2004.
14 Montero Ruiz 2005.
15
These two sites are considered by the authors of the respective stu-
dies as establishments that were highly specialized in metallurgy
(Nocete et al. 2004; Nocete et al. 2008). However, the technological
level displayed by their materials and the proposed operative chains
are similar to those found in some Chalcolithic sites in Spain and in
other regions, which are considered linked to a primitive techno-
logy. Compare, for example, Rovira (2004) and Ambert et al. (2009)
and the technological considerations made by Hauptmann 2003. It
seems that the term »specialized« matches better with the quantita-
tive evaluation of the production rather than technological traits.
16 Nocete et al. 2008, 728, fig. 10.
17 Rovira 2002b; Sáez et al. 2003; Müller et al. 2004.
18 Hauptmann 2003, 460.
Technological characteristics of early mining and extractive metallurgy
Towards the end of the 4th millennium cal BC we find the
complete chaîne opératoire fully established on the Iberi-
an Peninsula, leading to the production of copper from its
ores. New raw materials came into play, which could be
obtained using mining techniques already known since
the Neolithic period, but applied to other materials such as
flint7 and variscite.8 However, there is no evidence for com-
plex copper mining until the first half of the 3rd millennium
cal BC, namely mine galleries such as those in the mining
complex of El Aramo9 (Asturias)10 (Fig. 1). It is likely that mo-
dern mining has erased the traces of prehistoric work, espe-
cially in large mining concessions exploited intensively or
in the many small outcrops that are scattered throughout
the Peninsula and have been operated as family-units until
recently.
In the mines of El Aramo, the best studied so far, the min-
eral (malachite) was extracted with the help of hammers and
picks made of stone and antler; there is clear evidence for
fire-setting.11 The use of fire-setting was certainly a new im-
provement compared to conventional mining techniques
documented for the Neolithic period.
In regard to the minerals worked, tests on a series of
samples from archaeological sites or from mines located
in the immediate surroundings indicate a clear preference
for high-grade ores such as copper oxides and carbonates,
which are often associated with arsenic (olivenite, conichal-
cita) and iron minerals (hematite, goethite).12 A few samples
of fahlores (a natural mixture of oxides and sulphides) have
been reported.13
All of these minerals are characteristic of the
upper parts of the ore bodies; therefore, it can be deduced
indirectly that their acquisition would not require technically
complex mining methods.
What was definitely novel to the technological repertoire
of prehistoric societies was to have reached the practical
knowledge needed to take advantage of the profitable trans-
formation of ore to metal, namely to cause a chemical reac-
tion that would allow the reduction of oxides into the corre-
sponding metal.
Evidence of metallurgical activities that allow linking Cer-
ro Virtud (5th millennium cal BC) to Chalcolithic metallurgy of
the 3rd millennium cal BC are quite scarce indeed, yet they
do exist. A thorough review of them with regard to south-
eastern Spain can be found in the study by Montero Ruiz.14
In the first half of the 3rd millennium cal BC copper metallur-
gy was fully established in sites such as Cabezo Juré (Alosno,
Huelva), Valencina de la Concepción (Seville), Los Millares
(Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almería), Almizaraque (Cuevas del
Almanzora, Almería), Zambujal (Torres Vedras, Portugal), to
mention only those sites whose archaeometallurgical re-
mains have been the subject of more or less comprehensive
analytical studies.
All of these sites share certain characteristics:
1.
Although no significant accumulations of copper slags
have been documented they show clear attributes of
metallurgical practices, as in the case of Cabezo Juré, Al-
mizaraque and Valencina. The quantities of slag collec-
ted range from a few hundred grams (Almizaraque, Los
Millares, Zambujal) to a few kilograms (Cabezo Juré, Va-
lencina).15 The slags are usually small fragments produ-
ced by crushing somewhat larger units, but recently also
small cakes of a flat or plano-convex shape have been
found.16
2.
The slags are immature and of low quality, with very hete-
rogeneous mineralogical and chemical compositions that
lead to a high viscosity in the material, which hampered
or prevented the separation of the metal being formed
(Fig. 2). The slags often contain delafossite and magneti-
te, indicating that redox conditions in the system in which
they were formed were variable, poorly controlled, someti-
mes reducing, sometimes oxidising conditions (Fig. 3).17 In
view of the high retention of copper, metal as well as unre-
duced ore, the process can be classified as characteristic of
a primitive metallurgy.18
Fig. 1 Partial plan of prehistoric galleries in the Chalcolithic-Early Bronze
Age copper mining complex of El Aramo (Asturias) (after de Blas
2005, 202 fig. 4).
Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy 233
19 From the study of the slags from Cabezo Jure it could be deduced
that ultrabasic rocks were used for fluxing (Sáez et al. 2003, 629 630).
However, such an addition does not lead to the low viscosity in slags
as desired.
20 Nocete et al. 2008, fig. 10.
21 Fire structures for metallurgical use are called »furnaces« too freely.
A metallurgical furnace must be a structure which allows a con-
trolled chemical and thermal environment, and adequate for ore
reduction under optimal conditions, which involves the develop-
ment of slagging techniques characteristic of a highly developed
metallurgy, among other features (Hauptmann 2003). Although its
state of preservation at the time of the archaeological excavation
can be very precarious and even unrecognizable, the good quality
of the slag (very durable material) will argue in favour of its exist-
ence. Guided by these considerations, we prefer to reserve the term
»metallurgical furnace« to those heat structures that are cap able of
producing low-melting point slags, which do not occur at the tech-
nological level with which we are dealing.
3.
Direct reduction of ores without the addition of fluxes:19
The resulting slag is formed by a reaction among the
components of the gangue, the fuel ash and the sili cates
from the wall of the container, in which the reduction
occurs. The amount and composition of the slag formed
are directly linked to the reduced mineral composition: If
high grade ores are used, a low amount of slag can be ex-
pected.
4.
Use of ceramic vessels (smelting crucibles) as contai-
ners for the operation of reduction (Fig. 4): The formati-
on of slag layers and glazes on the inner surface of the
vessels indicates that an increased thermal shock took
place inside, which in turn suggests that the metallur-
gist had learned how to drive a jet of hot air. Ceramic
tuyères large enough to be connected to bellows have
not been found, but recent excavations have docu-
mented what may be tips or nozzles for blowing-pipe
protection.)20
5. Absence of true metallurgical furnace structures21 in the
archaeological record: The process was performed by
Fig. 2 Copper slag from Los Millares. Many copper prills (white) are
entrapped. SEM back scattering image.
Fig. 4 Reconstructed smelting crucibles from: 1 Morra del Quintanar
(Munera, Albacete), Middle Bronze Age; 2 3 Almizaraque (Almería),
Chalcolithic.
Fig. 3 Delafossite and magnetite in copper slag from San Blas (Cheles,
Badajoz). SEM back scattering image.
Fig. 5 Open fire structure in Los Millares, used for smelting purpose
(after Craddock 1995, 133 fig. 4.5).
Salvador Rovira and Ignacio Montero-Ruiz234
22 Craddock 1995, 133, fig. 4.5; Nocete et al. 2004, 282, fig. 13.8; Nocete
et al. 2008, 725, fig. 7.
23 We have plenty of analytical information about materials from those
periods that backs this assertion, the most representative being the
abundance of such remains in the pre-Roman sites of La Corona de
Corporales (171 fragments) and in El Castrelin de San Juan de Pal-
uezas (244 fragments), both in the León province (Fernández-Posse
et al. 1993).
24 In any case, we noted that many of the technological characteristics
of copper-production in the rest of Europe during the Chalcolithic
period and the majority of the Bronze Age are poorly understood.
As far as we know, no studies of metallurgical by-products sup-
ported by laboratory analyses have been made on materials dated
earlier than practically Late Bronze Age contexts; the application to
those regions of the term »technological oriental models« is made
with little discussion. Research on mining and metallurgy has been
further developed more in quantitative (economy, social complex-
ity) than in qualitative terms (technological traits). Examples are the
works by Stöllner (2003) and Krause (2009). In fact we do not know
for sure when occurred in Europe the shift from a primitive technol-
ogy of copper production (immature slags) to a highly developed
technology (low-melting point slags). This is indeed an important
issue for discussion, but this is not the place to do so. In our opin-
ion, the matter is not the amount of copper produced, but how the
copper was produced.
25 Delibes et al. 1991.
26 Bayona et al. 2003.
27 Rovira et al. 1997; Sáez et al. 2003; Müller et al. 2004.
28 Rovira 2002b; Rovira – Ambert 2002; Sáez et al. 2003; Müller et al. 2004.
29 Rovira 1998.
30 Montero Ruiz 2009.
heating the smelting vessel upon an open fire, sometimes
located in ad hoc protective structures or small pits that
would improve the thermal efficiency, as has been docu-
mented at sites such as Los Millares (Fig. 5), Cabezo Juré
and Valencina.22
What is really surprising is that these features of technologi-
cal primitivism long characterize the metallurgy of the Iberian
Peninsula, well into the Iron Age,23 which contrasts sharply
with the developments occurring in other regions of the Eas-
tern Mediterranean and Central and Southeast Europe. This
constitutes a regional peculiarity to be explained from other
non-technological perspectives. It seems that the demand
for metal on the Peninsula during the Copper and Bronze
Age was well secured without the need to develop better
and more efficient technology.24
Arsenical copper, an intentional or a hazard alloy?
For many years it was thought that arsenical copper was an
important step forward in alloying techniques in order to
obtain better metals. So, the chain copper arsenical cop-
per tin bronze has been considered the backbone of the
development of early metallurgy. However, we know of no
work based upon real archaeological evidence of smelting or
melting practices that demonstrates how the alloying could
have been accomplished in prehistoric times. The existence
of arsenical copper objects has led to the assumption that
metallurgists made them intentionally. Many theories on ar-
senic alloying (including experimental work) have been de-
veloped, but none, as far as we know, is wholly supported by
the archaeological record.
What the evidence does suggest, at least in Iberia, is the
following:
1. Copper and arsenical copper objects are found together
from the beginning in all Chalcolithic sites with thick
stratigraphic deposits, for example, Almizaraque25 and
Cabezo Juré.26 They supply radiocarbon dates at the be-
ginning of the 3rd millennium cal BC.
2. In many sites the copper ores used are of polymetallic na-
ture.27
3. There is no way to distinguish with the naked eye colour
differences between pure malachite and malachite that
contains olivenite and/or conichalcite.
4. The analyses of slags, smelting crucible fragments and
other debris indicate without any doubt that copper ores
naturally bearing arsenic were smelted in situ.28
5.
The arsenic content in Chalcolithic objects shows a dis-
tribution that matches quite well with the evolution of
natural processes, accounting for the arsenic lost in smelt-
ing and annealing operations, in addition to factors that
are not so easy to evaluate (Fig. 6). As is well known, col-
our change and better properties in arsenical copper be-
come noticeable when the arsenic amount is higher than
3 4 %. If Chalcolithic and Early Bronze metallurgists were
concerned with its intentional production, the histogram
would reflect the same pattern as the tin bronze‘s one (see
below).
Therefore, in our opinion, these alloys were not deliberately
produced. Once again mineralogy is determinant. In fact,
regional differences of arsenic contents related to mineral-
ogy and distance to the available resources, recycling, etc.,
have been detected.29 In this regard it is worth mentioning
that the first copper coinage during the time of Isabella II in
the 1830s, which used ores of Spanish origin, reproduced
non-intentional impurity patterns like those in Chalcolithic
objects.30
Fig. 6 Arsenic content in Chalcolithic copper objects from the
southeast Iberian Peninsula (data from Rovira et al. 1997 and
unpublished).
Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy 235
31 Some colour properties of the scarce arsenic-rich alloys such as the
surface »silvering« effect were perceived, no doubt. See a short dis-
cussion on this topic in Rovira – Gómez 2003, 192 194.
32 Budd 1992; Rovira 1998; Rovira – Gómez 2003; Kienlin 2008.
33 Alcalde et al. 1998.
34 Fernández-Miranda et al. 1995.
Another matter is the extent to which early metallurgists
recognised these arsenical bronzes. Probably, the new col-
our was one of the most appreciated features at that time.31
This is suggested by current investigations that show that the
theoretically possible improvement of mechanical proper-
ties was not fully realized, as demonstrated by the metallo-
graphic microstructure, arsenic content and function of the
objects.32 But this is a matter that calls for a more detailed dis-
cussion in another context.
Tin bronzes: a real innovation
The earliest tin bronzes of the Iberian Peninsula were found
in Bauma del Serrat del Pont (Tortellà, Girona), a settlement
that was inhabited for a long time span. An arrowhead and
metal waste made of low tin bronze were unearthed in Chal-
colithic strata with Bell Beaker ceramics dated to 4200 ± 70
BP (Beta-90622) and 4020 ± 100 BP (Beta-64939), respectively
2800 2450 (2σ) cal BC. Evidence for tin bronze production
(smelting crucibles, metal waste, objects) is more numerous
at this site in the following Early Bronze Age.33
Tin bronze technology moved southwards very slowly,
reaching the area of the El Argar culture in the Southeast, not
earlier than the 19th century cal BC. It is thought that this new
technology arrived in Iberia from afar, probably from south-
ern France34.
An interesting aspect to underscore, apart from the sur-
prisingly slow pace of dissemination of the new alloy, is that
in no case did tin bronze substitute copper in producing ob-
jects. In Bauma del Serrat, for instance, copper and bronze
Fig. 7 Tin in Middle Bronze Age objects (data from Rovira et al. 1997
and unpublished).
Fig. 9 Tin in Late Bronze Age swords and daggers (data from Rovira
1995).
Fig. 8 Slaggy layer in an Early Bronze Age smelting crucible from Santa
María de Matallana (Villalba de los Alcores, Valladolid). SEM back
scattering image (after Rovira 2008 2009, 47 fig. 4).
Fig. 10 Copper-tin slag from the Late Bronze–Early Iron Age site of El
Castro (Gusendo de los Oteros, Burgos). SEM back scattering
image.
Salvador Rovira and Ignacio Montero-Ruiz236
35 See Rovira et al. 1997.
36 For a discussion on this topic see Rovira 2007 and Rovira et al. 2009.
37 Rovira 2007.
38 Dungworth 2000.
39 Rovira 2008 – 2009.
40 Gener et al. 2007.
41 Strahm 1994.
42 Strahm – Hauptmann 2009.
43 Delibes et al. 2010.
44 Montero Ruiz 2005, 189 192.
45 Delibes – Montero 1997, 26.
46 Murillo Barroso – Montero Ruiz 2012.
47 Strahm – Hauptmann 2009, 120.
objects still coexisted during the first half of the 2nd millen-
nium cal BC. Moreover, taking into account the set of analy-
ses of Middle Bronze Age objects,35 80 % of them were made
of copper and 20 % of tin bronze. It is also striking that most
of the tin bronze objects of the El Argar culture were made
for ornamental purpose (rings, bracelets, necklaces), not as
weapons or tools.
The percentage of tin in the alloys varies very irregularly
during the Middle Bronze Age (Fig. 7), a variation that can be
explained, if we accept co-smelting of copper and tin min-
erals as the method used for alloying.36 Despite the fact that
only few slags dating to the Bronze Age have been properly
investigated, they seem to be quite similar to the Chalco-
lithic ones described above. What is new is the presence of
cassiterite both as globules and as rhombic crystals and nails
(Fig. 8). Hence, a new raw material, the cassiterite, appears on
the stage in the Early Bronze Age.37
Co-smelting is a process that makes it very difficult to con-
trol the final proportion of components in the alloy, because,
on the one hand, at that time the metallurgist did not know
the exact composition of the minerals smelted together in
the crucible. On the other hand, an unpredictable part of cas-
siterite is lost in the slag, because it is not reduced (see Fig. 8).
The thermal and chemical environment inside the smelting
crucible, which is not easy to control, is of great importance.
The frequent presence of magnetite and rhombic cassiterite
indicates that the process produced a highly oxidising at-
mosphere, what had a negative effect on the alloying, as re-
ported by Dungworth.38
The tin content in bronzes seems to have been more
standardised in the Late Bronze Age. However, the range of
compositions was still wide, as shown in Figure 9, represent-
ing the alloys of Spanish swords and daggers of the Ria de
Huelva type. In our opinion this is due to the fact that co-
smelting and/or copper cementation techniques continued
to be in use as late as the whole Iron Age39 (Fig. 10).
Regarding the ternary alloy copper-tin-lead, this alloy
appears late in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, but
heavily leaded bronzes are practically confined to the pro-
duction of palstaves in Galicia and Portugal, usually linked
to Atlantic metallurgy. Both copper-lead ingots and objects
from that period have been recently reported on the Spanish
Mediterranean seaboard, in some sites related to Phoenician
colonies. Little is known yet about lead metallurgy in this pe-
riod,40 but the cupellation process for silver production intro-
duced by Phoenician colonizers might be connected with the
first use of lead as independent metal and in bronze alloys in
Iberia.
Christian Strahm’s proposal for metallurgical developmental phases and the Iberian Peninsula
case
This proposal based upon available archaeological data was
first formulated about twenty years ago.41 Since then, it has
been appended or refined after many discussions up to the
most recent one.42 How does the development of Iberian
Peninsula metallurgy match such a proposal?
A preliminary stage of the usage of coloured stones
(malachite, azurite, turquoise, variscite) is recorded in Neolithic
times, which means the starting point of a complex mining
technology and trade in the case of the Spanish variscite. Some
copper minerals have been recently found in the Neolithic site
Nava de Nocedo (Burgos). Although its function is unknown,
they clearly hint towards access to this raw material.43
The existence of an initial phase of the first metallurgy
using native copper has not been proven until now.
The innovation phase for early metallurgy consisting of
smelting oxide ores in simple vessels seems to have started
as early as the Spanish Middle Neolithic, in the 5th millenni-
um cal BC at Cerro Virtud, and there is also some evidence in
the Late Neolithic site of Terrera Ventura (Tabernas, Almería)
and other sites.44 The lack in the surrounding regions of the
Western Mediterranean of any evidence on this topic led De-
libes and Montero to propose the autonomous inception of
metallurgy in the Peninsula as a natural consequence in the
evolution of local Neolithic society.45 This is not as surprising
as it might seem at first sight. The chances for obtaining cop-
per in an experimental stage are very limited, so that every
social group that decided to start the experiments would
follow more or less the same steps, steps that are independ-
ent of cultural conditioning, yet dependent upon the laws of
physics and chemistry. At this point, only archaeological evi-
dence could diagnose whether the onset of an experimen-
tal metallurgy is the result of contacts and dissemination of
knowledge or is an autonomous process. In the current state
of our knowledge such evidence of diffusion is lacking, so
that, with the necessary caution, one cannot easily reject an
autochthonous development.46
The consolidation phase showing a developed metallurgy
did not occur on the Iberian Peninsula with the features pro-
posed by Christian Strahm47 until almost pre-Roman times.
During the Chalcolithic period, the Bronze Age and much of
the Iron Age the existence of true metallurgical furnaces has
not been recorded; there are no slag heaps and the nature of
metallurgical slags and other debris insistently hints towards
the use of smelting crucibles.
However, we can see how throughout the Bronze Age
some optimization took place in the design of metallurgical
Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy 237
48 Müller et al. 2004.
49 Both experimentation and archaeological facts show that copper
production from fahlores do not require any substantial modification
of the smelting crucible process. See for example Ambert et al. 2009,
289 – 292.
50 Hauptmann 2003, 460.
ceramic (crucibles, moulds). Sporadic working of fahlores,
already documented in the Chalcolithic period,48 cannot be
considered as a symptom of mining and metallurgical pro-
gress, but rather as a consequence of the metallogenetic
characteristics of the Peninsula,49 where there are many min-
eral outcrops in which the gossan and oxidation zone of the
ore deposit is lost.
Several other features of Strahm’s proposal regarding
the consolidation phase are fulfilled on the Iberian Pen-
insula, from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age, but one key
feature is lacking: the development of metallurgical fur-
naces and slagging processes, which marks the difference
between a primitive and a fully developed metallurgy.50
Therefore, there are two options: either we accept that the
consolidation phase on the Peninsula had some particular
technological features, or we must admit that such a phase
did not occur and that the experimental phase had a long
development from the Neolithic to the Iron Age in some
regions.
In regard to the industrial phase, it does not seem to occur
throughout Iberia at the same time, and further, in any case,
it was conditioned by the arrival of Phoenician and Greek
s ettlers. However, this is a chapter that still contains many
technological unknowns, at least in its beginning.
Acknowledgement
Work developed in the frame of Programa Consolider-
Ingenio 2010 (CSD2007 00058) »Technologies for the
conservation and valorisation of Cultural Heritage« (Pro-
grama Consolider de Investigación en Tecnologías para la
valoración y conservación del Patrimonio Cultural – TCP) and
Project HAR2010-21105-C02-02 »Relación entre materias pri-
mas locales y producción metalúrgica: Cataluña meridional
como modelo de Contraste«.
Bibliography
Alcalde et al. 1998
G. Alcalde – M. Molist – I. Montero – L. Planagumà – M. Saña –
A. Toledo, Producciones metalúrgicas en el Nordeste de la Península
Ibérica durante el III milenio cal AC: el taller de la Bauma del Serrat
del Pont (Tortellà, Girona). Trabajos de Prehistoria 55, 1998, 81 100.
Ambert et al. 2009
P. Ambert – V. Figueroa – J. L. Guendon – V. Klemm – M. Laroche –
S. Rovira – Ch. Strahm, The copper mines of Cabrières (Hérault) in
southern France and the Chalcolithic metallurgy. In: T. L. Kienlin –
B. W. Roberts (eds.), Metals and Societies. Studies in Honour of Barba-
ra S. Ottaway. Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäolo-
gie 169 (Bonn 2009) 285 295.
Bartelheim – Montero-Ruiz 2009
M. Bartelheim – I. Montero-Ruiz, Many ores and little water – The
use of resources during the Bronze Age on the Iberian Peninsula. In:
M. Bartelheim – H. Stäuble (eds.), Die Wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen
der Bronzezeit Europas/The Economic Foundations of the European
Bronze Age (Rahden/Westf. 2009) 5 21.
Bayona et al. 2003
M. R. Bayona – F. Nocete – R. Sáez – J. M. Nieto – E. Alex – S. Rovira,
The prehistoric metallurgy of Cabezo Juré (Alosno, Huelva): The
metal objects production. In: Archaeometallurgy in Europe, 24 26
Septembre 2003, Milan, Italy. Proceedings 2 (Milan 2003) 175 184.
de Blas 2005
M. A. de Blas, Un témoignage probant l’exploitation préhistorique du
cuivre dans le nord de la Péninsule Ibérique: le complexe minier d’El
Aramo (Asturies). In: P. Ambert – J. Vaquer (eds.), La première métal-
lurgie en France et dans les pays limitrophes. Carcassonne 28 30
Septembre 2002. Actes du Colloque International. Mémoire de la
Société Préhistorique Française 37 (Paris 2005) 195 205.
Bosch 2005
P. Bosch, Les techniques d’exploitation des plus anciennes mi-
nes d’Europe méditerranéenne: l’exemple de Gavà, Barcelonne. In:
P. Ambert – J. Vaquer (eds.), La première métallurgie en France et
dans les pays limitrophes. Carcassonne 28 30 Septembre 2002. Ac-
tes du Colloque International. Mémoire de la Société Préhistorique
Française 37 (Paris 2005) 207 210.
Budd 1992
P. Budd, Alloying and Metalworking in the Copper Age of Central Eu-
rope. Bulletin of the Metals Museum (Japan) 17, 1992, 3 14.
Delibes et al. 1991
G. Delibes – M. Fernández-Miranda – M. D. Fernández-Posse –
M. C. Martín – I. Montero – S. Rovira, Almizaraque (Spain): Archaeo-
metallurgy during the Chalcolithic in the Southeast of the Iberian
Peninsula. In: J.-P. Mohen – Ch. Éluère (eds.), Découverte du Métal
(Paris 1991) 303 – 315.
Delibes – Montero 1997
G. Delibes – I. Montero, Els inicis de la metal lúrgia a la península
Ibèrica. Transferència de tecnologia o descobriment autònom? Cota
Zero 13, 1997, 19 28.
Delibes et al. 2010
G. Delibes – M. A. Moreno Gallo – A. del Valle, Dólmenes de Sedano
(Burgos) y criadero cuprífero de Huidobro: una relación todavía posi-
ble. In: P. Bueno – A. Gilman – C. Martín Morales – J. Sánchez-Palen-
cia (eds.), Arqueología, sociedad, y paisaje: estudios sobre prehistoria
reciente, protohistoria y transición al mundo romano en homenaje a
Mª Dolores Fernández-Posse (Madrid 2010) 31–51.
Dungworth 2000
D. Dungworth, Serendipity in the foundry? Tin oxide inclusions in
copper and copper alloys as an indicator of production process. Bul-
letin of the Metals Museum (Japan) 32, 2000, 1 5.
Salvador Rovira and Ignacio Montero-Ruiz238
Capote et al. 2006
M. Capote – N. Castañeda – S. Consuegra – C. Criado – P. Díaz-del-Río –
M. A. Bustillo – J. L. Pérez-Jiménez, Casa Montero: la mina de sílex más
antigua de la Península Ibérica. Tierra y Tecnología 29, 2006, 42 50.
Consuegra et al. 2004
S. Consuegra – M. M. Gallego – N. Castañeda, Minería neolítica de
sílex en Casa Montero, Vicálvaro, Madrid. Trabajos de Prehistoria 61,
2004, 127 – 140.
Craddock 1995
P. T. Craddock, Early Metal Mining and Production (Edinburgh 1995).
Fernández-Miranda et al. 1995
M. Fernández-Miranda – I. Montero – S. Rovira, Los primeros obje-
tos de bronce en el occidente de Europa. Trabajos de Prehistoria 52,
1995, 57 – 69.
Fernández-Posse et al. 1993
Mª D. Fernández-Posse – I. Montero – F. J Sánchez-Palencia – S. Rovi-
ra, Espacio y metalurgia en la cultura castreña: la Zona Arqueológica
de Las Medulas. Trabajos de Prehistoria 50, 1993, 197 220.
Gener et al. 2007
M. Gener – S. Rovira – I. Montero – M. Renzi – N. Rafel – X.-L. Arma-
da, Análisis de escorias de plomo del poblado de la Edad del Hierro
de El Calvari en El Molar (Priorat, Tarragona). In: J. Molera – J. Farjas –
P. Roura – T. Pradell (eds.), Avances en Arqueometría 2005. Actas del
VI Congreso Ibérico de Arqueometría (Girona 2007) 153 161.
Hauptmann 2003
A. Hauptmann, Rationales of liquefaction and metal separation in
earliest copper smelting: basics for reconstructing Chalcolithic and
Early Bronze Age smelting processes. In: Archaeometallurgy in Euro-
pe. 24 26 Septembre 2003, Milan, Italy. Proceedings 1 (Milan 2003)
459 – 468.
Hauptmann et al. 1996
A. Hauptmann – H. G. Bachmann – R. Maddin, Chalcolithic copper
smelting: new evidence from excavations at Feinan, Jordan. Archa-
eometry 1994, Ankara. The Proceedings of the 29th International
Symposium on Archaeometry, Ankara 9 14 May 1994 (Ankara 1996)
3 – 10.
Hunt 2003
M. A. Hunt, Prehistoric Mining and Metallurgy in South West Iberian
Peninsula. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1188
(Oxford 2003).
Kienlin 2003
T. L. Kienlin, Frühes Metall im nordalpinen Raum. Eine Untersuchung
zu technologischen und kognitiven Aspekten früher Metallurgie an-
hand der Gefüge frühbronzezeitlicher Beile (Bonn 2003).
Krause 2009
R. Krause, Bronze Age copper production in the Alps: Organisation
and social hierarchies in mining communities. In: T. L. Kienlin – B. W.
Roberts (eds.), Metals and Societies. Studies in honour of Barbara S.
Ottaway. Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie
169 (Bonn 2009) 47 66.
Maddin et al. 1991
R. Maddin – T. Stech – J. D. Muhly, Çäyonü Tepesi. The earliest archa-
eological artefacts. In: J.-P. Mohen – Ch. Éluère (eds.), Découverte du
Métal (Paris 1991) 375 386.
Montero Ruiz 2005
I. Montero Ruiz, Métallurgie ancienne dans la Péninsule Ibérique.
In: P. Ambert – J. Vaquer (eds.), La première métallurgie en France
et dans les pays limitrophes. Carcassonne 28 30 Septembre 2002.
Actes du Colloque International. Mémoire de la Société Préhisto-
rique Française 37 (Paris 2005) 187 193.
Montero Ruiz 2009
I. Montero Ruiz, Análisis metalúrgico de la colección numismática.
En Mezquitas en Toledo, a la luz de los nuevos descubrimientos. Los
Monográficos del Consorcio 5 (Toledo 2009) 135 145.
Müller et al. 2004
R. Müller – T. Rehren – S. Rovira, Almizaraque and the early copper
metallurgy of Southeast Spain: New data. Madrider Mitteilungen 45,
2004, 33 – 56.
Murillo Barroso – Montero Ruiz 2012
M. Murillo Barros – I. Montero Ruiz, Copper Ornaments in the Iberian
Chalcolithic: Technology versus Social Demand. Journal of Mediter-
ranean Archaeology 25,1, 2012, 53 73.
Nocete et al. 2004
F. Nocete – R. Sáez – J. M. Nieto, La producción de cobre en Cabe-
zo Juré: estudio químico, mineralógico y contextual de escorias. In:
F. Nocete (ed.), Odiel. Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica para
el Análisis del Origen de la Desigualdad Social en el Suroeste de la
Península Ibérica (Seville 2004) 273 295.
Nocete et al. 2008
F. Nocete – G. Queipo – R. Sáez – J. M. Nieto – N. Inácio – M. R. Ba-
yona – A. Peramo – J. M. Vargas – R. Cruz-Auñón – J. I. Gil-Ibarguchi
– J. F. Santos, The smelting quarter of Valencina de la Concepción
(Seville, Spain): the specialised copper industry in a political centre of
the Guadalquivir Valley during the third millennium BC (2750 2500
BC). Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 2008, 717 732.
Roberts et al. 2009
B. W. Roberts – Ch. Thornton – V. Pigott, Development of metallurgy
in Eurasia. Antiquity 83, 2009, 1012 1022.
Rovira 1995
S. Rovira, Estudio arqueometalúrgico del depósito de la Ría de Huel-
va. In: M. Ruiz-Gálvez (ed.), Ritos de paso y puntos de paso. La Ría de
Huelva en el mundo de Bronce Final europeo. Complutum Extra 5
(Madrid 1995) 33 – 57.
Rovira 1998
S. Rovira, Metalurgia campaniforme en España: resultados de quince
años de investigación arqueometalúrgica. In: M. Ch. Frère-Sautot
(ed.), Paléométallurgie des Cuivres. Actes du Colloque de Bourg-en
Bresse et Beaune, 17 18 Oct. 1997. Monographies Instrumentum 5
(Montagnac 1998) 109 – 127.
Rovira 2002a
S. Rovira, Metallurgy and society in Prehistoric Spain. In: B. S. Ottaway
– E. C. Wagner (eds.), Metals and Society. British Archaeological Re-
ports International Series 1061 (Oxford 2002) 5 20.
Rovira 2002b
S. Rovira, Early slags and smelting by-products of copper metallurgy
in Spain. In: M. Bartelheim – E. Pernicka – R. Krause (eds.), Die Anfän-
ge der Metallurgie in der Alten Welt/The Beginnings of Metallurgy in
the Old World I (Rahden/Westf. 2002) 83 98.
Rovira 2004
S. Rovira, Tecnología metalúrgica y cambio cultural en la Prehistoria
de la Península Ibérica. Norba. Revista de Historia 17, 2004, 9 40.
Rovira 2007
S. Rovira, La producción de bronces en la Prehistoria. In: J. Molera
– J. Farjas – P. Roura – T. Pradell (eds.), Avances en Arqueometría
2005. Actas del VI Congreso Ibérico de Arqueometría (Girona 2007)
21 – 31.
Iberia: Technological Development of Prehistoric Metallurgy 239
Rovira 2008 – 2009
S. Rovira, El bronce de la Edad del Hierro Hispánica. Algunos aspec-
tos de la tecnología y sus antecedentes. Boletín de la Asociación Es-
pañola de Amigos de la Arqueología. Homenaje al Dr. Michael Blech
45 (Madrid 2008 – 2009) 35 – 49.
Rovira – Ambert 2002
S. Rovira – P. Ambert, Les céramiques à réduire le minerales de cuiv-
re: une technique métallurgique utilisée en Ibérie, son extensión en
France méridionale. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 99,
2002, 105 – 126.
Rovira – Gomez 2003
S. Rovira – P. Gómez-Ramos, Las Primeras Etapas Metalúrgicas en la
Península Ibérica. III. Estudios Metalográficos (Madrid 2003).
Rovira et al. 1997
S. Rovira – I. Montero – S. Consuegra, Las Primeras Etapas Metalúr-
gicas en la Península Ibérica. I. Análisis de Materiales (Madrid 1997).
Rovira et al. 2009
S. Rovira – I. Montero – M. Renzi, Experimental co-smelting to cop-
per-tin alloys. In T. L. Kienlin – B. W. Roberts (eds.), Metals and Socie-
ties. Studies in honour of Barbara S. Ottaway. Universitätsforschun-
gen zur prähistorischen Archäologie 169 (Bonn 2009) 407 414.
Ruiz Taboada – Montero 1999
A. Ruiz Taboada – I. Montero, The oldest metallurgy in western Euro-
pe. Antiquity 73, 1999, 897 903.
Sáez et al. 2003
R. Sáez – F. Nocete – J. M. Nieto – M. A. Capitán – S. Rovira, The ex-
tractive metallurgy of copper from Cabezo Juré, Huelva, Spain: che-
mical and mineralogical study of slags dated to the third millennium
BC. The Canadian Mineralogist 41, 2003, 627 638.
Stöllner 2003
Th. Stöllner, Mining and economy – A discussion of spatial organisa-
tion and structures of early raw materials exploitation. In: Th. Stöllner
– G. Körlin – G. Steffens – J. Cierny (eds.), Man and Mining/Mensch
und Bergbau. Studies in Honour of Gerd Weisgerber on Occasion
of his 65 Birthday. Der Anschnitt, Supplement 16 (Bochum 2003)
415 – 446.
Strahm 1994
Ch. Strahm, Die Anfänge der Metallurgie in Mitteleuropa. Helvetia
Archaeologica 28, 1994, 2 39.
Strahm – Hauptmann 2009
Ch. Strahm – A. Hauptmann, The metallurgical developmental
phases in the Old World. In: T. L. Kienlin – B. W. Roberts (eds.), Me-
tals and Societies. Studies in honour of Barbara S. Ottaway. Univer-
sitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie 169 (Bonn 2009)
116 – 142.
Villalba et al. 1986
M. J. Villalba – L. Bañolas – J. Arenas – M. Alonso, Les mines neolítiques
de Can Tintorer, Gavà. Excavacions 1978 1980 (Barcelona 1986).
Address of authors
Salvador Rovira
Espartero, 50-2º pta 6
46450 Benifaio
Spain
s_rovirallorens@hotmail.com
Ignacio Montero-Ruiz
Instituto de Historia
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Albasanz, 26-28
28037 Madrid
Spain
ignacio.montero@cchs.csic.es
... The number of metal items documented in the territory reveals Gata,Linares,Gádor,Montsant,MBF and the Faja Pirítica 11. Lead and copper mining in Priorat county (Tarragona,Spain) a metallurgy with a limited economic weight and the characteristic technology of the Iberian Peninsula based on reduction vessels (Rovira and Montero-Ruiz 2013). Metal was of little importance in productive life, in which most of the tools used were still made of stone. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The Neolithic–Chalcolithic site of Belovode covers approximately 40 ha (Figure 1). In the two fieldwork campaigns of 2012 and 2013, only 31.5 m2 was excavated due to the archaeometallurgical focus of the project. The trench was positioned on the eastern platform of the settlement, where previous excavations had uncovered significant metallurgical evidence in Trenches 3 (Šljivar and Jacanović 1997c, Radivojević et al. 2010a) and 17, which are located to the north and the south of Trench 18 respectively. A 5 x 5 m area was opened in the 2012 season and then, based on the preliminary spatial analysis of metallurgical finds, in 2013 the trench was slightly expanded with a 2 x 3 m extension on the eastern side.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter summarises the macroscopic and microscopic analyses of pottery sherds from the sites of Belovode and Pločnik, presented in Chapters 14 and 31, and provides insight into different technological traits in order to aid reconstruction of pottery making recipes in these two Vinča culture communities. Using a multi- pronged scientific approach, we reconstructed routines of raw material acquisition and processing, techniques of forming and finishing vessels, firing conditions and organisational aspects of pottery production. The possible non-local production identified in this research is also considered in order to understand the dynamics that shaped pottery circulation in these prehistoric communities (e.g. Quinn et al. 2010). These results also contribute significantly to the previous technological studies carried out on Neolithic pottery from sites in the central Balkans (Figure 1) (e.g. Dammers et al. 2012; Kaiser 1984, 1989, 1990; Kaiser et al. 1986; Kreiter et al. 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017a, 2017b, 2019; Spataro 2014, 2017, 2018; Szakmány et al. 2019).
Article
Full-text available
The authors reconsider the origins of metallurgy in the Old World and offer us a new model in which metallurgy began in c. eleventh/ninth millennium BC in Southwest Asia due to a desire to adorn the human body in life and death using colourful ores and naturally-occurring metals. In the early sixth millennium BC the techniques of smelting were developed to produce lead, copper, copper alloys and eventually silver. The authors come down firmly on the side of single invention, seeing the subsequent cultural transmission of the technology as led by groups of metalworkers following in the wake of exotic objects in metal.
Article
Full-text available
Recent excavations at the Neolithic site of Cerro Virtud (Almería, southeast Spain) have produced new information about the development of metallurgy that may change ongoing research not only in the Iberian Peninsula but also in the rest of western Europe. The discovery of metallurgy in this region in the first half of the 5th millennium BC poses serious challenges to the interpretation of how this industry developed and spread, given that the nearest European region with similar evidence is the Balkans. This study presents the archaeological context of the discovery and the various analytical techniques (XRF, SEM, ¹⁴ C) that have been applied to it.