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The Origin and Relationship of Bronze Blades from the “Sögel-Wohlde-Kreis” – a holistic (Isotope-) Geochemical Approach

Determining the origin of archaeological bronzes and their metal sources is one of the great desiderata of archaeologists. Answersing these questions is often difficult with archaeological and typological methods alone, which is why isotope and elemental compositions of metals have since become important components. While the methods for the analysis of copper are more or less straightforward, determining the origin of the tin sources is still limited. However, owing to the high inter-deposit variations of Sn isotope compositions, their analysis alone is not a raliable tool for determining the origin of tin in bronzes. Due to this fundamental limitations, recent works pursued a multi-isotope approach with Pb, Cu and Sn isotopes coupled with trace elements in two case studies searching for evidence of source mixing and/or recycling. This is beyond the mere provancing for sources, which in turn may help to reconstruct relationships between artefacts of different origins and reveal cultural and trade networks. The approach is now investigated on a much larger scale in our recent project. For this, about 300 blades of the Sögel and Wohlde type from the Nordic Early Bronze Age are to be isotopically and chemically analysed and compared with counterparts in southern central Europe and south-eastern Europe. Ultimately, the origin of the artefact types, their metal sources and their socio-economical entanglements will be disclosed, but at the same time a critical evaluation of analytical data will be undertaken against the background of metal/ore mixing and recycling.


Andreas Wittke1, Bart Cornelis1, Gerhard Brügmann1, Daniel Berger1
1Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie gGmbH, Germany
GeoMinKöln 2022