image/svg+xml129XIII/2/2022INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euCopper Supply Networks in the Early Bronze Age of South-east Spain: New Evidence from the Lower Segura ValleyDirk Brandherm1*, Ignacio Montero Ruiz2, Milena Müller-Kissing3, Alexander Maass4, Emilio Diz Ardid51Queen’s University Belfast, School of Natural and Built Environment, Belfast, BT7 1NN, United Kingdom2Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científcas, Instituto de Historia, Calle Albasanz 26–28, E-28037 Madrid, Spain3Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Am Bergbaumuseum 31, D-44791 Bochum, Germany4Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpfege, Arbeitsstelle Montanarchäologie, Bergtal 18, D-38640 Goslar, Germany5Museo Arqueológico Comarcal de Orihuela, Calle Hospital 3–5, E-03300 Orihuela, Spain1. IntroductionThis paper presents results from a programme of analyses undertaken on copper ores from the Lower Segura Valley, straddling the provinces of Alicante and Murcia in south-east Spain, and on metal objects from sites of the El Argar culture in that same study area (Figure 1). Our programme of analyses was conducted following a feld survey project that aimed at identifying evidence for pre-modern mining activities in the Lower Segura Valley (Brandherm and Maass, 2010; Brandherm et al., 2013; 2014). Both in terms of the archaeology of its pre-modern mining remains and of the characterisation of relevant ore bodies, the study area has received relatively little attention in comparison to the much larger nearby mining district of Cartagena and Mazarrón, as well as other mining areas further afeld in southern Iberia. The principal aim of our project was to remedy that situation and enable a full assessment of the signifcance of extractive industries and their contribution to past metal supply networks in the region.One of the main points of interest in this regard was to determine to what extent the exploitation of local copper ores might have contributed to the metal supply of Early Bronze Age (EBA) settlements in the region. During the EBA the Lower Segura Valley constituted the northernmost expanse of the El Argar culture area (Brandherm, 1996; Martínez Monleón, 2014), and the extent to which copper supply within the El Argar culture may have been centrally controlled by a political élite continues to be a matter of considerable debate (Lull Santiago et al., 2010a; 2010b; Montero Ruiz and Murillo Barroso, 2010).On one side of that debate we have a model according to which the bulk of El Argar copper would have originated from the Linares mining district in the eastern Sierra Morena, Volume XIII ● Issue 2/2022 ● Pages 129–141*Corresponding author. E-mail: INFOArticle history:Received: 18thNovember 2021Accepted: 11thApril 2022DOI: words:Bronze Agecoppersupply networkslead isotopesminor elementstrace elementsABSTRACTThe range of copper sources and the nature of metal supply networks used by the El Argar culture of south-east Spain have been the subject of a long-running debate. On one side of this debate we have a model that envisages supply for much of the El Argar culture coming from a closely circumscribed region and controlled centrally by a political élite, while on the other side we have a model of a more decentralised supply network drawing on a wider, geographically more dispersed range of ore sources that is lacking the same level of political control. The available archaeometallurgical data are not entirely conclusive in this respect. While results from the existing, comparatively small body of lead isotope analyses have been taken to support, at least to some extent, the idea of a single main source region supplying most if not all of the El Argar culture area with copper, results from the much larger but not easily interpreted body of minor-element analyses would appear to lend support to the notion of a more decentralised supply. In this contribution we present new analytical data from the Lower Segura Valley, both from local copper ores and from local El Argar artefacts, which provide new insights relevant to this debate.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2022 ● XIII/2 ● 129–141Dirk Brandherm, Ignacio Montero Ruiz, Milena Müller-Kissing, Alexander Maass, Emilio Diz Ardid: Copper Supply Networks in the Early Bronze Age of South-east Spain: New Evidence from the Lower Segura Valley130with the distribution of the metal tightly controlled by the ruling class of an emerging El Argar state. This model was originally based on a limited set of lead isotope data obtained as part of the Gatas project through a programme of analyses undertaken at the Oxford Isotrace Laboratory (Stos-Gale et al., 1999). Subsequently it also came to draw on the lack of direct evidence for extractive metallurgy from El Argar contexts other than those of the Linares mining district (Escanilla, 2016, pp.430–432).On the other side of the debate we have a model of multiple, geographically dispersed ore sources providing El Argar society with copper through a non-centralised supply system. This model was originally informed by statistically signifcant variation in the trace-element contents of copper-base metal objects from a range of diferent El Argar settlements, which seems to suggest that not all of the relevant sites were supplied from the same ore body and clearly contradicts the notion of a single supply source for El Argar copper (Montero Ruiz, 1999, p.350). Subsequent additions to the body of relevant lead isotope data also appear to indicate that diferent sources contributed to the copper supply of El Argar society (Stos-Gale, 2001, p.454; Müller-Kissing, 2014, p.56; Murillo-Barroso et al., 2015, pp.152–154), but the number of available analyses still only provides limited coverage of the very diverse range of relevant ore bodies in southern Spain, and the respective body of data continues to present some difculties of interpretation which only an approach combining lead isotope and trace-element data can potentially overcome (Montero Ruiz, 2018, pp.322–324; Murillo-Barroso et al., 2019, pp.606–607).The isotopic and trace-element characterisation of ore bodies and El Argar copper-base metal objects from the Lower Segura Valley presented here constitutes an important step in flling the remaining gaps in this jigsaw.2. MethodologyAs part of our feld survey project, copper ore samples were collected at diferent locations in the Sierra de Orihuela and Sierra de Santomera, either directly from surface outcrops of ore bodies or from spoil tips left by modern exploration or mining activities. None of the analysed ore samples was retrieved from an EBA context, although several of the respective sampling locations are situated in the immediate vicinity of prehistoric settlement sites (Cabezo Mal Nombre, Cerro de la Mina).