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On the behaviour of siderophilic trace elements during iron production

The study of trade relations allows insight into social, political and economic aspects of past societies.

  • Runtime: 01.03.2021 - 28.02.2022

The study of trade relations allows insight into social, political and economic aspects of past societies. Metals in particular, whose raw material deposits are not evenly distributed geographically, were often procured from afar. This required a well-developed system of production, organisation and long-distance contacts. Such elaborate investments, together with the high value and prestigious character inherent in metals, led to the concentration of this valuable commodity in the hands of elites.

Participants: Michael Brauns

The possibility of being able to attribute a metal product to its ore source by means of scientific methods is therefore of great importance for the reconstruction of important aspects of early socio-economic conditions. However, this approach requires the compilation of as much information and data on geological ore sources as possible.

Splitting the hatch: After removal from the furnace, the hatch is first consolidated (slag removal by hammering) and then split. Photos: CEZA, M. Brauns

The primary goal is to extend our already established method for determining the provenance of iron with the help of osmium isotopes through the chemical characterisation of the ferrous metal. Within this project, a combination of methods with other siderophile elements is to be developed, which will achieve an even more robust determination of the provenance of archaeological iron artefacts on the basis of (very) small samples. It is important to test the theoretically expected behaviour (stability, volatility, contamination) of other siderophile elements during the iron production in experiments, as well as to demonstrate the applicability in an archaeological case study.