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Carole Gillis

Professor emerita

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The switch from stone to metal in Greece was initially mainly a change in material, but as soon as bronze production was invented problems arose as tin is not indigenous to Greece. Where did the tin used on Crete and the mainland come from? What were the mechanisms involved? How did the trade system work? Did the sources change diachronically and what were the implications? To solve this, it was necessary first to establish which tin-ore sources were used in the BA through finding a materials-analytical method to provenance-determine tin, tin ores and tin in bronzes as there are no written records. Several methods were tried, primarily trace element analysis and isotope identification. Trace elements were inconclusive, isotope analyses seemed better. We determined that (contrary to the previous belief in homogeneity)Sn isotopes varied geographically from place to place. However, we also determined that tin ores in a single site could also vary internally, which eliminates 'fingerprinting' an ore site and matching it to isotopes in tin or bronze objects. Research is ongoing--when and if this initial step is resolved, then the results can be applied to the Aegean Bronze Age to answer questions of contact and trade. This second step is contingent on an understanding of trade theory and mechanisms. Thus concomitantly an indepth study of the social structures and economic factors in the source societies and the receiver societies through time is necessary and is also ongoing.


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