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Professor Beno Rothenberg Memorial Lecture

Publication date: Apr 28, 2014 03:44 PM

Start: Jun 25, 2014 05:00 PM

Location: UCL Institute of Archaeology

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On behalf of the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies, we are pleased to invite you to the first Professor Beno Rothenberg Memorial Lecture entitled “Copper for the Bronze Age World” will be delivered by Professor Vasiliki Kassianidou (University of Cyprus), and followed by a wine reception at the Leventis Gallery.

About the lecture series

This lecture series is intended to be the first of many to honour IAMS' founder and to continue his work in developing and sharing our understanding of the world's ancient metallurgy.

Professor Beno Rothenberg (1914-2012), acclaimed photographer of the emerging state of Israel, self-taught scholar and founding father of archaeo-metallurgy, was one of only a handful of scientists who between them revolutionised the way in which we study and understand the production of metal prior to the Industrial Revolution. He pioneered the fusion of traditional archaeological and science-based approaches which later came to be known as archaeometry, with a strong emphasis on painstaking data gathering and photographic documentation in the field, chemical and mineralogical analysis of the archaeological remains unearthed, and visionary, if sometimes contentious interpretation of his observations. While his interests went well beyond the beginnings of mining and metallurgy, these are where he left his strongest legacy, not least through coining the very term ‘archaeo-metallurgy’, now used world-wide for the study of ancient metals and their production using scientific methods, and through establishing, directly and indirectly, two of the leading academic schools in this field. He was the founder of the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies in 1973. More information can be found within this IAMS history section and on Professor Rothenberg's obituary.

Copper for the Bronze Age World

Cyprus Bronze Age Ingot God

The extraction of copper from its ores and the use of its alloys marked the transition from the very long Stone Age to the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age is also characterized by the emergence of complex societies, the development of writing and the establishment of trading systems through which various commodities, including metals were circulated. In the Late Bronze Age the increasing demand for copper and its alloys led to the intensification of copper production in a number of places, but above all in Cyprus. A plethora of archaeological evidence from land and sea and textual evidence enables us to trace these developments in copper production and trading networks. Then, sometime in the twelfth century BC all this comes to an end and these networks, together with a number of the great civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean collapse. Some scholars have argued that this phenomenon was the incentive behind the discovery of iron technology and the transition to the Iron Age, during which copper and its alloys take second place. This would seem to be supported by the lack of written sources relating to the exchange of copper, as well as the lack of archaeological evidence for trade in copper ingots such as that provided by the oxhide ingots of the Late Bronze Age.

But is this really the case? In fact, copper never lost its importance, as it continued to be used to produce not only works of art and vessels but also weapons. The shipbuilding industry, which in the Iron Age began to construct warships equipped with bronze rams and other bronze fittings, was perhaps the most demanding of all. Recent archaeological fieldwork in mining regions such as Faynan, Timna and Cyprus show that, opposite to what was assumed there is an intensification of copper production already from the beginning of the first millennium. With some effort some evidence for copper trade can also be revealed.

The aim of this lecture is to present and contrast the evidence for copper production and trade in the Late Bronze Age through the Early Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean, an area of great cultural and historical importance throughout Antiquity.

About the speaker

Professor Vasiliki Kassianidou is a Professor at the University of Cyprus where she has been teaching Environmental Archaeology and Archaeometry since 1994. She studied at Bryn Mawr College, USA where she received her Bachelor degree (Cum Laude) with a double major in Chemistry and Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology in 1989. She continued her studies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology where she received her doctoral degree on Archaeometallurgy in 1993, and also worked as a research fellow. Her research is focused on ancient technology and specifically the production and trade of Cypriot copper through Antiquity but also on the impact of this industry on the Cypriot landscape and environment. She has taken part and directed a number of field and analytical projects regarding this subject.  Prof. Kassianidou is the coordinator of a number of research projects including a Marie Curie ITN entitled New Archaeological Research Network for Integrating Approaches to ancient material studies (NARNIA) which with a budget of 4,6 million euro was the largest grant ever given to a Cypriot institution by the Research Executive Agency of the European Union. Further information: http://ucy.ac.cy/dir/en/component/comprofiler/userprofile/arkasian

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