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L.I. Avilova, N.N. Terekhova

Standard ingots of metal in the Near East in the Eneolithic and the Bronze Age

Summary

L.I. Avilova and N.N. Terekhova present a review of the archaeological finds from the territory of the Near East and Central Asia interpreted as standard ingots of metals dating from the Chalcolithic to the Late Bronze Age. Several types of copper/bronze ingots are discussed: bun-shaped and bar-shaped ones, ox-hide ingots of the Late Bronze Age, as well as those imitating certain types of tools and weapons (axes, sickles) known from Kura-Araxes culture in Transcaucasus. The authors also consider standard gold and silver ingots of various shapes (Nahal Kana, Troy). Special attention is paid to so-called long pins, objects made in shape of pins but supplied with drop-like bulb on the end. Analytical investigations of a large series of such finds from Bronze Age sites of Central Asia (Geoksiur, Altyn-depe, Khapuz-depe, Tulkhar cemetery and others) have shown that these were standard ingots of copper and bronze cast by series at a time and practically non-processed after casting. They were used as blanks for forging out tools and, evidently, as exchange equivalents. These conclusions may be extrapolated to the numerous finds of the discussed type from Iran (Tepe Hissar, Sialk, Shah Tepe, Yahya) and single finds from Susa, Gawra VI and Ur, the more so that intense interaction between the territory of Iran and Central Asia in the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age is well documented. No ingots of long-pin type are known to the west from the Euphrates. The authors suggest the following classification of Bronze Age ingots. First the objects of exchange were finished artefacts, then metallurgical ingots of raw metal (bun-shaped ingots). Roughly at the same time appeared marketable bar-shaped ingots and those imitating certain artefacts typical of given cultural circle; these also could have served as blanks. Gradually standard ingots acquire the character of equivalent of value and exchange (early money).

Ó L.I. Avilova, 2005

Ó N.N. Terekhova, 2005