Journal of Archaeological Science doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.012
On the Origins of Extractive Metallurgy: New evidence from Europe
Miljana Radivojević et al.
The beginnings of extractive metallurgy in Eurasia are contentious. The first cast copper objects in this region emerge c7000 years ago, and their production has been tentatively linked to centres in the Near East. This assumption, however, is not substantiated by evidence for copper smelting in those centres. Here, we present results from recent excavations from Belovode, a Vinča culture site in Eastern Serbia, which has provided the earliest direct evidence for copper smelting to date. The earliest copper smelting activities there took place c7000 years ago, contemporary with the emergence of the first cast copper objects. Through optical, chemical and provenance analyses of copper slag, minerals, ores and artefacts, we demonstrate the presence of an established metallurgical technology during this period, exploiting multiple sources for raw materials. These results extend the known record of copper smelting by more than half a millennium, with substantial implications. Extractive metallurgy occurs at a location far away from the Near East, challenging the traditional model of a single origin of metallurgy and reviving the possibility of multiple, independent inventions.