Metal in the Eneolithic complexes of the Trans-Urals

Spiridonov I.A.  (Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


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In this study, we analysed the first metal items and metalworking evidence found on the vast territory of the mountain-forest Trans-Urals and the forest-steppe of the Tobol area. The analysis included about 50 metal artefacts from 35 archaeological sites of Ayat, Lipchinsky, Surtandy, Sosnovy Ostrov, Shapkul, Andreevo, and Kysykul cultures (4th3rd millennia BC). Spectral and typological analyses, along with the context of the obtained material, provided the basis for reconstructing how the first metal could appear among local hunters and fishermen. The chemical composition of raw material, which is characterised by an increased content of arsenic and lead, and the typology of products, including leaf-shaped knives, for the most part, correlate with the metal of the pit culture. Attempts to reproduce the melting procedure, reconstructed from the shards having copper drops stuck to them, were noted only for the carriers of the Lipchinsky and Surtandy cultures (Shuvakish 1, Argazi 7, Malyi Lipovy 10, Surtandy 6 and 8, etc.). In this case, closer ties of the Lipchinsky and Surtandy populations with the carriers of pit traditions might have played a certain role. The absence of casting moulds and metalworking waste suggests that Ural hunters and fishermen obtained finished items from the manufacturing centres of the steppe zone. Rare ancient experiments in melting metal can be considered as attempts to copy an unfamiliar technology. First copper products could not replace stone tools. In addition, metalworking technologies did not become widespread there and were not further developed. Fundamental changes would occur only at the turn of the 3rd2nd millennia BC, when the population of the taiga zone was drawn into the network of the West Asian (Eurasian) metallurgical province.

Key words: Mountain-forest and forest-steppe Trans-Ural, eneolith, copper, metalworking.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-46-3-086-095


Funding. This work was supported by a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research No. 18-09-40011.


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Submitted: 08.04.2019

Accepted: 10.06.2019

Article is published: 26.09.2019


Spiridonov I.A.

Ural Federal University, Lenina st., 51, Yekaterinburg, 620000, Russian Federation