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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities

‘Silver Rush in Recent Prehistory? Technological Change in Silver Production and its Social Implications in Southern Iberia’ Seminar

20 November 2014
John Wymer Lab Building 65a Avenue Campus

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Leif Isaksen at .

Event details

Part of the Archaeology Seminar Series

A comparative study of silver is presented here: On the one Millennium BCE), a society embroiled in a long process of social stratification from at least the Copper Age of Los Millares; and on the other hand the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age societies (1st Millennium BCE), especially of South-west Iberia, where interactions between the Phoenicians and indigenous communities played a key role in the configuration of a new hybrid society with growing social inequality. In these two contexts, the production of silver had a slag, cupels and litharge providing the earliest evidence of silver cupellation in Iberia) and barely 100 small silver objects.

Against this background, some questions are raised: What was the role played b Was there any restriction on silver consumption based on class, gender or age? In order to address these questions all relevant evidence has been compiled in a database and further analyses by XRF, SEM, metallography The results confirmed the beneficiation of ‘pure’ native silver and silver chlorides by Argaric metallurgists, explaining the scarcity of metallurgical debris. During the LBA/EIA, silver technology drastically changed: Silver is now produce by cupellation from jarositic ores of the Rio Tinto mining district. Lead becomes then an essential ingredient to extract silver and a complex commercial network of lead distribution is proposed. While most of the silver production debris are mainly in so-called indigenous areas, the Phoenicians could have played a key role in the distribution of lead by sea (as suggested by the Mazarrón shipwreck). This intensification of production and the amplification of the scale contrast with the scarcity of silver artefacts recovered, suggesting that the Phoenician-led intensification of production would mostly aim at to export silver to the East. LIA of eastern silver artefacts would be needed to contrast this hypothesis.

Speaker information

Mercedes Murillo-Barroso , UCL. Research Fellow

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