The provenance, use, and circulation of metals in the European Bronze Age: the state of debate

Miljana Radivojević, Benjamin Roberts, Ernst Pernicka, Zofia Stos‑Gale, Thilo Rehren, Peter Bray, Dirk Brandherm, Johan Ling, Jianjun Mei, Helle Vandkilde, Kristian Kristiansen, Stephen Shennan, Cyprian Broodbank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
664 Downloads (Pure)


Bronze is the defining metal of the European Bronze Age and has been at the center of archaeological and science-based research for well over a century. Archaeometallurgical studies have largely focused on determining the geological origin of the constituent metals, copper and tin, and their movement from producer to consumer sites. More recently, the effects of recycling, both temporal and spatial, on the composition of the circulating metal stock have received much attention. Also, discussions of the value and perception of bronze, both as individual objects and as hoarded material, continue to be the focus of scholarly debate. Here, we bring together the sometimes-diverging views of several research groups on these topics in an attempt to find common ground and set out the major directions of the debate, for the benefit of future research. The paper discusses how to determine and interpret the geological provenance of new metal entering the system; the circulation of extant metal across time and space, and how this is seen in changing compositional signatures; and some economic aspects of metal production. These include the role of metal-producing communities within larger economic settings, quantifying the amount of metal present at any one time within a society, and aspects of hoarding, a distinctive European phenomenon that is less prevalent in the Middle Eastern and Asian Bronze Age societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-185
JournalJournal of Archaeological Research
Issue number2
Early online date02 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2019


  • Bronze Age
  • Circulation
  • Metal
  • Mining
  • Provenance
  • Recycling
  • Trade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The provenance, use, and circulation of metals in the European Bronze Age: the state of debate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this