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Prehistoric Copper Tools From the Territory of Serbia

Prehistoric Copper Tools From the Territory of Serbia

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PREHISTORIC COPPER TOOLS FROMTHE TERRITORY OF SERBIA
D. Antonović
#
Institute of Archaeology, Belgrade, Serbia
(Received 11 December 2008; accepted 10 February 2009)
Abstract
 Around four hundreds prehistoric copper tools and weapons have been recorded in the territory of Serbia so far. They had been in use for a rather long period of time – from the end of the early phase of the Vinčaculture until the Middle Bronze Age and some types of these objects even until the very beginning of the Iron Age. The copper alloyed with small quantities of arsenic, lead and tin started to appear already by the end of the Eneolithic indicating the attempts of prehistoric metallurgist to improve technical characteristics of thecopper. On the copper tools from the territory of Serbia could be followed the evolution of shapes starting fromthe specimens, which completely imitated stone tools and which appeared in the beginning of the Early Eneolithic to the completely developed Bronze Age shapes, which confirm that prehistoric metallurgist entirelyunderstood and accepted the advantages offered by metalworking. The analyses of metal composition havebeen performed on around 50% of prehistoric copper tools. Nevertheless, in spite of all relatively numerousanalyses there is still no answer to the question concerning the primitive technology of copper ore processing and the metallurgical process of obtaining copper for the production of copper and sometime later the bronzeartifacts.
 Keywords:
Copper tools; Eneolithic; Bronze Age; Serbia
#
Corresponding author: d.antonovic@ai.sanu.ac.rs DOI:10.2298/JMMB0902165A
Journal of Mining andMetallurgy
 Journal of Mining and Metallurgy 45 ( 
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 ) B (2009)
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1. Introduction
Around four hundreds prehistoric copper tools and weapons have been recorded in theterritory of Serbia so far. There are alsodecorative objects encountered in aconsiderably smaller quantity but stillrelatively abundant although they are not thetopic of this work. The largest quantity of copper jewelry comes from the necropolis inMokrin near Kikinda dated in the EarlyBronze Age. Large number of diverse jewelry pieces – from simple hoops withsingle coil through necklaces, finger rings,torques to complex multipartite diadems has been found in 312 burials [1].The copper 
 
tools and weapons had been in use duringrather long period of time – from the end of the early phase of the Vinča culture (end of Vinča-Tordoš phase and Gradac phase) to theMiddle Bronze Age. In fact, certain types of weapons like double axes and axes withsingle cutting edge of Montenegro-Albaniantype continued until the beginning of the IronAge.The beginnings of metallurgy in theterritory of Serbia are closely connected withthe rich ore deposits in our country. Theterritory of the central Balkans was naturally predestined for very early emergence of metallurgy. The rich ore deposits, whichwere at many places close to the surfaceground almost until the modern times andtherefore easily available, must have beendiscovered very early by the Neolithicagricultural population.There are three main groups of copper oredistinguishable in Serbia: 1. sulphide ores,most widely distributed, that occur in theform of chalcopyrite, chalcocite, covellite,etc; 2.oxide-carbonate ores including mostlycuprite, malachite and azurite and whichappear in the zones of oxidation of thesulphide copper ores and mostly near thesurface; 3. native copper, which is todayexceptionally rare in the sulphide and oxide-carbonate ores and which was most probablyexhausted already in the prehistoric period because of the intensive demand for such orein the earliest copper metallurgy [2].The copper ore is distributed in our country in 3metallogenetic zones: 1. Carpatho-Balkanic province in Eastern Serbia, 2. Serbian-Macedonian and 3. Dinaric province. (Fig.1).The richest is the first one, the Carpatho-Balkanic province where are today thelargest copper mines in this part of the world but where has also been discovered theearliest copper mine in Europe – RudnaGlava. Considering the quantity anddistribution of the prehistoric copper artifactsit is absolutely certain that ore exploitationduring prehistory was equally intensive alsoin the Serbian-Macedonian and Dinaric province.
2. Beginnings of prehistoric metallurgy
The copper metallurgy in Serbiadeveloped in few phases.1. Pre-metallurgical phase (6300 – 5000BC). First phase is actually pre-metallurgical but very important for the first acquaintance
 D. Antonović/ JMM 45 ( 
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 Fig. 1. Prehistoric copper finds and copper-oredeposits in Serbia: A.Carpatho-Balkanic province in Eastern Serbia, B. Serbian- Macedonian province and C. Dinaric province[2]
 
with the metal so it certainly should be takeninto account in the archeometallurgicalstudies. It lasted from the beginning of theEarly Neolithic continuing during the entireVinča culture, i.e. throughout the Late Neolithic and the Early Eneolithic periods.In fact, only the appearance of malachiteduring the Early Neolithic and at the beginning of the Vinča culture could beidentified as pre-metallurgical while thefinds of malachite in the later periods could be related to the copper ore processing. Thefirst encounter with the basic raw material in primitive metallurgy, the malachite, isdemonstrated in the production of pendantsand the use of malachite is related first of allto the affinity for the green-color stones of the bearers of the Early Neolithic cultures inthe southeast Europe [3]. 2. Production of massive copper tools andweapons (5000 – 4500 BC) of primitiveappearance and having models in the stonetools followed immediately after the‘malachite’ phase. It lasted from the end of the Early to the beginning of the Late Vinčaculture (end of Vinča-Tordoš II – VinčaPločnik I). It is interesting that before this phase and after the ‘malachite’ phase has not been identified the phase of production of small decorative copper artifacts as it is thecase in Bulgaria [4].It is hard to believe that this phase as logical continuation after theacquaintance with malachite as basic ore inthe earliest copper metallurgy did not exist inthe evolution of the early metallurgy in thisarea. It is possible that this type of finds because of their fragility and oversensitivityto the acid soil, which is frequent at our sites,did not survive in the Late Neolithic/EarlyEneolithic layers in the territory of Serbia.3. Degradation in copper productionduring the Vinča culture period (4500 – 4200BC). It is evident in production of smalldecorative objects while production of massive tools known in the preceding phasedied out completely. During this phase smalldecorative copper objects of simple shape(hoops, bracelets, wire) have been foundvery rarely on the Late Vinča sites along withthe increased quantity of malachite, whichwas found mostly in the form of lumps[5].This phase is partially parallel with the nextone - phase 4.4. The ‘mass’ production of copper toolsand weapons from the end of the EarlyEneolithic (after 4000 BC). The largestnumber of the mentioned 400 pieces of copper tools could be attributed to this phaseof evolution of the primitive metallurgy inthe territory of Serbia. This group includesall axe-adzes, adzes, awls and hammer-axes.It is probable that mentioned tools originatefrom these areas but it is also possible thatthey were imported from the neighboringregions.
3. Development of prehistoric coppertools
The earliest copper tools from our territory, these dating from the period of theMiddle Vinča culture clearly show that theywere made using stone tools as models. Theearliest adzes and wedges imitate entirelytheir stone models even retaining thesemicircular cross-section, which ischaracteristic of the stone tools andcompletely unusual for the metalimplements. The tools are massive andunnecessarily thick because the experienceacquired in production of stone toolssuggested that greater thickness reduces the possibility of breaking. This causalcorrelation, however, was no more valid for 
 D. Antonov/ JMM 45 ( 
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