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ICP-AES Analysis of Bronze age based Copper Artefacts from the West of France. The specific chemical signatures of hoards as a function of the region and the typo-chronology

Abstract : Since a few years now, we have witnessed a real revival concerning the interest on chemical analyzes of copper-based objects of the Bronze Age of Western Europe atlantic coasts. The works in progress do not only focus on the identification of the copper’s origin, but try also to highlight the link between groups of objects, their typology and their localisation. The distinctive particularity of this region’s Bronze Age is the impressive number of objects found in land hoards, some of them gathering several thousands of objects. Thus, during the whole Bronze Age, it’s more than an hundred thousand objects that have been deposited, the reasons of such a practice being almost unknown. The chemical analyzes of copper-based artefacts that are being processed in the Rennes University follow a strict protocol in order to obtain the best representativity and avoid bias. Firstly, the consistency of each hoard is checked by analyzing a large number of its objects. Then, for each object, several analyzes are performed in order to make sure that the metal is homogeneous. Thus, it is possible to see if the chemical signatures are really representative of the hoard and therefore if they can be used to trace the material signature. Several hoards from the north-western part of France have already been analyzed. It’s more than 700 analyzes that have been done on hoards spanning from the Early Bronze Age to the First Iron Age. The results reveal that the chemical signature – based on trace elements comparison – for each period is different, indicating therefore probably that the ores were also different. Another result shows that recycling hasn’t been a major phenomenon. In front of the scale of the hoarding practice, new copper must have been regularly imported, this region having only limited copper resources, although it has abundant tin and lead ores. Finally it should be noted that the addition of lead in the alloy has begun at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, although it really expanded during the Final Bronze Age, to be a major element of the alloy during the Iron Age. This new element modifies the signature by scattering them, and in turn this completely prevents to make the link object/ore via the chemical analyzes, but also via the lead isotopes analyzes.
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Contributor : Cécile Le Carlier de Veslud <>
Submitted on : Monday, April 27, 2020 - 10:38:56 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 11:42:02 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02362839, version 1


Cécile Le Carlier de Veslud, Jean-Christophe Le Bannier, Cyril Marcigny, Muriel Fily. ICP-AES Analysis of Bronze age based Copper Artefacts from the West of France. The specific chemical signatures of hoards as a function of the region and the typo-chronology. International Symposium of Archaeometry, 2014, Los Angeles, United States. ⟨hal-02362839⟩



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