Late Bronze Age metallurgy in the western and central Balkans


The project aims to investigate metal circulations and metal producing Late Bronze Age societies in the western and central Balkans, with special attention to their possible intermediary role in the supra-regional exchange networks between Central Europe (Urnfield culture) and the Mediterranean World. By using various chemical-analytical and archaeological methods, the project will explore the possible use of local ore sources and their importance for the local and regional bronze metallurgy.

In contrast to a number of studies dedicated to the metallurgy of earlier periods in Southeast Europe, the technological and social background of the metallurgical and mining activities in LBA are still largely unexplained and based on assumptions rather than systematic analysis. The archeological record however indicates a significant increase of metallurgical activities, especially in several regions with copper ore deposits (Central Bosnia, East Serbia). Judging by the amount of smelted copper or variety of casted objects, some of the production places operated not just locally but apparently also on regional level. The analysis of the bronze objects, smelting slags and ore deposits will finally clarify the role and importance of the local ore sources for the increased production. The juxtaposition with existing data from other regions will also bring the region of the western and central Balkans into the general discussion regarding raw material supply, metal exchange and communication networks between ancient European communities during the LBA.

Especially in the context of the assumed expansion of the so-called “Urnfield bronzes” towards the Mediterranean cultures, the area of the western Balkans was often considered as a main connection. Considering that most of the sampled objects are indeed closely connected with typical Urnfield bronze spectrum, the results of this project will contribute to elucidate possible significance of the local communities within wider historical processes between Central Europe and Mediterranean.

Thanks to the fruitful cooperation of the institutions OREA, VIAS and regional museums in Travnik and Doboj (Bosnia-Hercegovina), a successful pilot phase of the project was started in 2015 and 2016. In total, 91 object were sampled and subsequently analysed, including bronzes, ingots from the LBA sites and samples of the local copper ore deposits. This will eventually enable to investigate complete chain of metal production. The selection of the sampled bronze objects involved both local forms and widely across Central and Southeast Europe distributed forms.

The preliminary results provide the first overview regarding cooper alloys und different metal groups in the area under study. This accomplishment of this first step has also enabled the selection of samples for more detailed trace element and lead isotope analysis. Furthermore, the database will significantly increase with new samples of bronze finds, ingots and copper ores from the Southeast Europe.

Publications

Publications

  • M. Gavranović, M. Mehofer (with contributions from A. Jašarević and A. Sejfuli), Local forms and regional distributions – metallurgical analysis of the Late Bronze Age objects from Bosnia, Archaeologia Austriaca 100, 2016, 87–107.