Institute of Archaeology
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First for Archaeology in UK 2015

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Loïc Boscher

Reconstructing the arsenical copper production process in Early Bronze Age Southwest Asia

The goal of this research is to analyse arsenical copper production remains from a number of sites in Southwest Asia dating to the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze in order to reconstruct the varied chaînes opératoires of arsenical copper production. This will in turn enhance our understanding of shifting patterns of technological development during this time period and assess the role that arsenic played in the wider trade networks. The research will endeavour to answer the following questions:

  1. How was Early Bronze Age arsenical copper produced?

    1. What types of ores were being used?
    2. What type of furnace was being used?
    3. Where does the arsenic come from?
    4. How does iron arsenide (speiss) relate to it?
  2. How did this metallurgical technology evolve from the Late Chalcolithic and how does it relate to Late Bronze Age techniques?

    1. Was the trade in metals a mechanism for the diffusion of metallurgical technology?
    2. Could speiss be part of a wider inter-regional trade network?
    3. If arsenic was being supplied through long distance trade, could the breakdown of the network have forced metallurgists to seek other alloying components that led to the rise of tin bronze?

This proposed project will entail the microscopic and chemical analysis of a large body of slags and other metallurgical remains as well as copper alloy artefacts from the sites of Çamlıbel Tarlası in Northern Turkey and Arisman, in West-Central Iran. Furthermore, lead isotope analysis will be conducted on artefacts from these sites in order to determine their geological origins. It is hoped that data from other arsenical copper production sites will be made available during the course of this research to further increase our understanding of this important technological development and its impact on past human societies.

Funding organisation

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • MSc with Distinction, Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials, UCL, 2010
  • BA Honours, Archaeology, University of Calgary, 2005

Rehren, T., and Boscher, L., Pernicka, E. (in press). Large scale smelting of speiss and arsenical copper at Early Bronze Age Arisman, North-West Iran. Journal of Archaeological Science.

Presentations

Rehren, T., and Boscher, L., Pernicka, E. 2011. Large scale smelting of speiss and arsenical copper at Early Bronze Age Arisman, North-West Iran. Paper presented at the Archaeometallurgy in Europe III Conference 2011.

Boscher, L. 2010. Arsenical Copper Production Technology during the Early Bronze. Paper presented to the Historical Metallurgy Society’s Research in Progress Conference 2010.

  • Copper oxide prill surrounded by calcium arsenate on the inside of a crucible fragment from Camlibel, Turkey
  • Iron Arsenide under SEM from the site of Arisman, Iran

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