Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview
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11

FROM LATE BRONZE AGE TO EARLY IRON
AGE COPPER METALLURGY IN MAINLAND
GREECE AND OFFSHORE AEGEAN ISLANDS

Maria Kayafa


INTRODUCTION

Prehistoric metallurgy can be studied either from an archaeological standpoint, focusing on typology, or from a technological perspective, examining the internal structure of metals with the aid of scientific methods. This chapter deals with the chemical composition of ancient metal artefacts found in Greece and dating to the LBA and the DA1 with the intention to show the technological development of copper-based metallurgy in mainland Greece and offshore islands from around 1400 BC to 900 or 850 BC. The evidence derives mainly from the chemical data available in publications.

More specifically, this paper focuses on the identification of the nature of the alloy used and investigates the way that alloys differ through time. A further question refers to the possible interrelation between the alloy used and the function of the artefact or in other words in what way, if any, the type of the object necessitated the use of a specific alloy recipe. The chemical data under consideration here have been published by their analysts, but a fresh approach is attempted, mainly because the archaeological commentary accompanying their original publication was minimal.

A particular interest in the technological study of metal artefacts found in DA contexts lies in the so-called 'bronze shortage theory', a hypothesis formulated by Snodgrass in an attempt to explain the switch from bronze to iron technology (Snodgrass, Dark Age: 237–9; 1980: 348–9). The 'bronze shortage theory' is based on the change of balance in bronze and iron objects particularly in the years after 1025 BC.2 At that period iron became a 'working metal' and replaced bronze in the making of functional items such as weapons and tools. This theory implies a general pattern of isolation during the DA and it is also connected to a hypothetical break of contact with Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean,

1 For a list of abbreviations particular to this chapter, see p. 229.

2 See the tables comparing the copper-based and iron finds from Lefkandi (Catling and Catling
1980: 232) and those published by Snodgrass (1980: 348, 350) regarding Athens and Vergina.
They clearly show a gradual replacement of bronze by iron.

-213-

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