The First Specialised Copper Industry in the Iberian Peninsula: Cabezo Jure (2900-2200 BC)
Nocete, F., Antiquity
The origin of copper-working has been a key issue in European prehistory since V.G. Childe associated it with the development of European civilisation. In spite of Renfrew's (1969, 1970) important early suggestion that metallurgy might have had an independent origin in Iberia, a paradigm has persisted that Europe's westernmost peoples performed secondary and dependent roles as copper-workers. This has found support in the archaeological records of south-eastern Spain, which suggest both a late start for copper metallurgy (late third millennium BC) and its practice at a low technical level and domestic scale (Cunliffe 1994; Champion et al. 1984; Chapman 1990, 2003; Gilman 1991, 1996; Montero 1993; Rovira 2002). Copper-working at industrial levels appeared only after the incorporation of the Iberian peninsula into the orbit of the Mediterranean civilisations of the first millennium BC (Frank 1995; Gills 1995; Gills & Frank 1993).
A recent archaeological research programme in the main mining district of the southwest Iberian peninsula has profoundly altered this view. It has revealed a copper metallurgy whose antiquity, scale of production and technological and social complexity proves it to be not only the oldest in Western Europe but also comparable to those claimed as the originating models for copper production anywhere (Craddock 1995; Bartelheim et al. 2002). The research has produced evidence for highly specialised copper production mining and metallurgy throughout the first half of the third millennium BC. This industry had a considerable environmental impact, including deforestation, pollution from heavy metals and acid drainage (Nocete et al. 2005a) and its social context is becoming evident in the form of a division of labour within a territorial framework (Nocete 2000, 2001) and a hierarchical supra-regional structure of core-periphery relationships (Nocete 2004, 2005; Nocete et al. 2005b). In this paper, I describe the site and argue the highly structured social relations that can be inferred.
Cabezo Jure was selected from a total of one hundred and forty-five archaeological sites involved in mining activity (copper, chert, variscite, etc.) in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, which constitutes one of the largest concentration of sulphide ores known on Earth (Saez et al. 1996) (Figure 1). Systematic landscape survey was followed by targeted excavation, the details of which are published elsewhere (Nocete et al. 2004a, b, c). The site is 2 hectares in extent, stands on a slight rise, and may be divided into three parts. The ore smelting furnaces were on the southern slope in the open air. The residential area consists of a series of huts arranged on terraces on the northern slopes. Between them, on the summit (Upper Platform), is a stone fort, protecting a great water storage cistern (Figure 2). Between these three areas, activities were rigorously demarcated by function: processing of ore took place on the south slope and copper casting in the residential area to the north. The fortress, by contrast, featured no metal-working and all the exotic imports were concentrated there: marine molluscs, brought at least 30km from the coast, and items of gold sheet, ceramic and marble cups, linen textiles, cereals, that had travelled up to 200km (Nocete 2001) (Figure 6). The radiocarbon dates obtained show that the first occupation of the settlement was at the beginning of the third millennium BC and subsequently continued until the beginning of the second millennium (Figure 3). During this time it was permanent and uninterrupted, as confirmed by the analysis of shell growth patterns from the molluscs.
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Agricultural tools or features connected with the production of food were conspicuously absent, implying a specialist site. Pollen and plant data endorse this observation (Nocete 2004; Nocete et al. 2005a). However, the faunal assemblages did produce evidence for an important level of hunting. …