Experimental Reconstruction of the Casting of Copper `Oxhide' Ingots

By Van Lokeren, Sven | Antiquity, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Experimental Reconstruction of the Casting of Copper `Oxhide' Ingots


Van Lokeren, Sven, Antiquity


One of the most crucial elements in the dynamics of the Late Bronze Age metals trade in the Mediterranean was the production and exchange of copper `oxhide' ingots (Knapp & Cherry 1994). These are basically flat, oblong slabs of nearly pure and unalloyed copper that weigh between 10 and 40 kg. The majority has an average weight of c. 29-30 kg however, and as a result this `standard' has been traditionally equated with the existence of a `talent'. They furthermore form a prominent part of the bulk cargo in shipwrecks discovered at Ulu Burun and Cape Gelidonya (Gale 1991). The results of an extensive programme of lead-isotope analyses aimed at determining the provenance of these ingots have led some archaeologists to propose that most of the ingots were produced from the rich copper resources on the island of Cyprus. Based on the same results, the Oxford group has also discussed the possibility of a specialized centre for their production in the Skouriotissa region of the island (Stos-Gale et al. 1997).

The adoption by Cypriot smiths of their method of production still requires explanation, not least because the earliest dated examples of what most people think of as a typical Cypriot product came from LMI or 16th-century BC contexts on Crete such as Zakro and Aghia Triadha. According to lead-isotope analyses, these pieces do not seem to be compatible with Cypriot ore-types, making a Cypriot origin of this technology highly unlikely. Moreover, they antedate the first evidence of such ingots on Cyprus by some two centuries. In addition, the only known mould for casting such ingots is a stone example from Ras Ibn Hani on the north coast of Syria. On the other hand, the possibility that the `oxhide' ingots discovered in Sardinia might have a terminus ante quem as late as 1100 BC, well after the last piece in Cyprus became deposited around 1150 BC, has naturally generated interest in the economic organization of such a technology at the end of the LBA in the eastern Mediterranean (Gale 1991).

Until recently, archaeologists and archaeometallurgists seemed to underestimate the value of experimentally reconstructing the production processes required to manufacture such large pieces of relatively pure copper. Experimental work can not only shed light on possible trade mechanisms in the 2nd-millennium BC Mediterranean, but far more importantly, it can provide us with organizational models based on the actual technology involved.

The fundamental questions remaining to be answered are the reasons for and possibilities of the transfer of such technological knowledge. In our opinion, this can only be done at this stage by establishing the technological parameters involved in the manufacture of these ingots. By adopting this approach, discussions about the provenance and trade of these ingots will at least be provided with a framework for the actual metallurgical practices of the LBA.

Based on relevant ethnographic analogies (Herbert 1984), archaeological remains at LBA Cypriot sites and earlier experiments by Dr John Merkel (1986), the reconstructions have been designed to test the use of mould materials and surface markings as well as metallographic structures. In particular, the aims are to test the efficacy of sand-formed rather than stone moulds, to evaluate the probability of portable tool-kits and to explain the lack of excavated mould remains on the island.

The negative imprint of an ingot shape in the sand is made by impressing a wooden pattern or by incising the shape with simple tools. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Experimental Reconstruction of the Casting of Copper `Oxhide' Ingots
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.