The rise of metallurgy in Eurasia

A micrograph of a sample of smelting slag showing different phases that suggest primary copper production, taken by an optical microscope under cross-polarised lights

Evolution, organisation and consumption of early metal in the Balkans

The purpose of this 3-year project (2012-15) is to understand the emergence of metallurgy in the Balkans during the 6th-5th millennia BC. It is an unprecedented three-year collaboration between British, Serbian and German archaeological institutions and is generously funded by the UK AHRC.

This is the largest international archaeological project currently working in Serbia and the largest project currently investigating early metallurgy in the world. The project builds on two decades of excavations at Jarmovac, Belovode and Pločnik conducted by the National Museum, Belgrade; the Museum of Toplica, Prokuplje and Homeland Museum of Priboj all of which were, and continue to be, funded by the Serbian Ministry of Culture.

Together, these four sites provide an unparalleled opportunity to comprehensively study the early development, evolution and spread of metallurgy. The project will combine two seasons of surveys and excavations at Belovode, Pločnik and Jarmovac with laboratory analysis of already existing finds, and new ones. Gornja Tuzla will be the subjected to post-excavation analysis only.

The recent application of modern archaeometallurgical techniques on technological debris from Belovode has transformed our understanding of early metallurgy and yielded the world-wide earliest known evidence for copper smelting, at c. 5000 BC (Radivojević et al., 2010).

Related outputs

  • Radivojevic, M., Rehren, Th., Pernicka, E., Sljivar, D., Brauns, M. and Boric, D. (2010): On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science 37, 2775-2787.
  • Roberts, B.W., C.P. Thornton & V.C. Pigott 2009. Development of metallurgy in Eurasia. Antiquity 83: 1012-22.



UK Project Team:

Serbian Project Team:

German Project Team:

  • Ernst Pernicka (University of Tübingen/Kurt Englehorn Centre for Archaeometry, Mannheim)
  • Thomas Stöllner (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
  • Knut Rassmann (Roman-Germanic Commission (RGK))
  • Roman Scholz (Roman-Germanic Commission (RGK))
  • Peter Thomas (Deutsches Bergbaus Museum)
  • Patrick Merkl (Roman-Germanic Commission (RGK))
  • Fabian Schapals (Deutsches Bergbaus Museum)


Further information:

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