Early Copper Sites
|Links to Early Places Without and With Metals|
|Early Places Without and With Metals|
|Logic dictates that somebody,
sometime, and somewhere used a metal, most likely copper, for the first time. Unfortunately, he or she did not
record that "first" for posterity. The ancient inventor probably did
not consider his deed to be something very special, not to mention that writing
hadn't been invented yet.
All we have is therefore what trained archaeologists (or untrained treasure hunters) dug out of the ground somewhere. We must discard all objects not "scientifically" excavated in almost all cases because we just don't know exactly where they come from and how old they are.
|We also must treat objects excavated
by early archaeologists with some care because these guys may not have properly
recognized what they found. When Napoleon's
digging and collecting stuff in Egypt, it wasn't clear to everybody that lead
or galena (PbS) were completely different things, and the lead - galena
confusion survived to some extent
until modern times.
Modern archaeometallurgy right now is cleaning up the mess left by hundreds of years of misunderstandings, wrong guesses or just plain mistakes made by well-meaning but not always knowledgable archaeologists. It's not easy and in many cases definite answers cannot be given. One simply cannot determine the exact age of an old copper or bronze object. C14 dating won't work, and no other methods are known. For iron containing some carbon (i.e. for steel), C14 dating might work but it is not a simple task. Dating thus is always tied to where, exactly, the object was found; i.e. in which layer of a know stratification.
|What I will do here is to look at
some of the oldest presently known
archaeological sites where metals have been found. In all but one case we deal
with native copper, picked up "from the ground". In order to put the
findings in context, we also need to look at comparable places where no metals have been found. One might ask why the
metal-less ancient cultures did not pick up
available native copper and gold and made something from it, considering that
other cultures, not all that different, did just that a little later. One might
argue that the stuff simply was not available in the immediate environment of
the metal-less old towns, and that is certainly a good reason. However, even
the very oldest organized cultures or societies covered in the links above did
some long-distance trading, acquiring things that were not easy to find in
their own stomping grounds, for example bright green copper ores like
malachite, or sea shells. One might guess that nobody then used native metals.
All these places were centers of the "Neolithic revolution", the period when humans changed their life-style from being hunters and gatherers to settling down. Domesticating animals like pigs, sheep and goats started, and so did agriculture by cultivating and breeding crops like wheat, emmer or barley (for making beer). That triggered new developments in other areas, too. If you can't go out hunting with the boys anymore but have to stay at home most of the time, the most urgent business for the men is to keep the females happy (and busy). Colorful jewelry thus predates advanced technologies, like making pottery in kilns, or metallurgy. In fact, most of the very first metal objects found were copper beads used for jewelry.
|In the lists above I therefore start
with some early places were no metals have
been found. Notice that I don't say that no metals shave been used. In some places just a few tiny copper pearls
have been found - in a space that covers a large area and several hundred
years. Not finding something does not
necessarily means it wasn't there under these circumstances.
Most of the early places I cover are in Anatolia and some of these places have been found just recently, causing major sensations and plenty of speculations.
While I give you a lot or piecemeal information, the link provides for a very readable article "History of Mining and Metallurgy in Anatolia" that puts it all together.
The authors are well-known archaeometallurgists who we have met several times already: Ünsal Yalçýn and Hadi Özbal. The article can be found in the Net without a quotation; I hope the authors forgive me for including it here.
|The following graph gives a time line on the towns covered in the links. Note that the dating (typically "C14 technology") is uncertain to some extent; every source seems to give slightly different times. If in doubt, I picked a kind of average.|
|I have also included a rough draft of the average temperature during the time slot involved; it is based on the results form the ice-core drilling in Greenland (a complete and correct curve is given in this link). The average temperature in Anatolia is certainly not well represented in this graph, but the general trend should be right. The rise in the average temperature around 13 000 BC is the reason for the neolithic revolution, i.e. the transition from (migrating) hunters and gatherers to sedentary farmers and animal keepers.|
|Finally, here is a map of Turkey with the locations of these places. A related map showing the "fertile crescent" is here.|
General Remarks to Literature and Sources
History of Carbon
Diffusion in Iron
Early Iron Sites: Hattusa
Radiocarbon (C14) Dating
Hallan Çemi Tepesi
Early Places With Metals: Çatal Höyük
Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lake
Large Pictures I
Large Pictures II
Large Pictures III
Rosh Horesha, Shanidar Cave
Early Iron Sites: Alaca Höyük
Early Iron Sites: Kültepe
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)