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Concept: Tin


The antiquity and decline of the Bronze Age Harappan civilization in the Indus-Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys is an enigma in archaeology. Weakening of the monsoon after ~5 ka BP (and droughts throughout the Asia) is a strong contender for the Harappan collapse, although controversy exists about the synchroneity of climate change and collapse of civilization. One reason for this controversy is lack of a continuous record of cultural levels and palaeomonsoon change in close proximity. We report a high resolution oxygen isotope (δ(18)O) record of animal teeth-bone phosphates from an archaeological trench itself at Bhirrana, NW India, preserving all cultural levels of this civilization. Bhirrana was part of a high concentration of settlements along the dried up mythical Vedic river valley ‘Saraswati’, an extension of Ghaggar river in the Thar desert. Isotope and archaeological data suggest that the pre-Harappans started inhabiting this area along the mighty Ghaggar-Hakra rivers fed by intensified monsoon from 9 to 7 ka BP. The monsoon monotonically declined after 7 ka yet the settlements continued to survive from early to mature Harappan time. Our study suggests that other cause like change in subsistence strategy by shifting crop patterns rather than climate change was responsible for Harappan collapse.

Concepts: India, Tin, Monsoon, Archaeology, Bronze Age, Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa, Thar Desert


Ancient human mobility at the individual level is conventionally studied by the diverse application of suitable techniques (e.g. aDNA, radiogenic strontium isotopes, as well as oxygen and lead isotopes) to either hard and/or soft tissues. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues hampers the possibilities of investigating high-resolution diachronic mobility periods in the life of a single individual. Here, we present the results of a multidisciplinary study of an exceptionally well preserved circa 3.400-year old Danish Bronze Age female find, known as the Egtved Girl. We applied biomolecular, biochemical and geochemical analyses to reconstruct her mobility and diet. We demonstrate that she originated from a place outside present day Denmark (the island of Bornholm excluded), and that she travelled back and forth over large distances during the final months of her life, while consuming a terrestrial diet with intervals of reduced protein intake. We also provide evidence that all her garments were made of non-locally produced wool. Our study advocates the huge potential of combining biomolecular and biogeochemical provenance tracer analyses to hard and soft tissues of a single ancient individual for the reconstruction of high-resolution human mobility.

Concepts: Tissues, Copper, Tin, Denmark, Danish language, Geochemistry, Mesopotamia, Isotope geochemistry


The Eneolithic Botai culture of the Central Asian steppes provides the earliest archaeological evidence for horse husbandry, ~5,500 ya, but the exact nature of early horse domestication remains controversial. We generated 42 ancient horse genomes, including 20 from Botai. Compared to 46 published ancient and modern horse genomes, our data indicate that Przewalski’s horses are the feral descendants of horses herded at Botai and not truly wild horses. All domestic horses dated from ~4,000 ya to present only show ~2.7% of Botai-related ancestry. This indicates that a massive genomic turnover underpins the expansion of the horse stock that gave rise to modern domesticates, which coincides with large-scale human population expansions during the Early Bronze Age.

Concepts: Horse, Tin, Domestication, Neolithic, Wild horse, Domestication of the horse, Bronze Age, Central Asia


25 years after the discovery in the Ötztal Italian Alps, the 5,300-year-old mummy keeps providing key information on human biological and medical conditions, aspects of everyday life and societal organization in the Copper Age. The hand axe found with the body of the Alpine Iceman is one of the rare copper objects that is firmly dated to the early Copper Age because of the radiocarbon dating of the axe wooden shaft. Here we report the measurement of the lead isotope ratios of the copper blade. The results unambiguously indicate that the source of the metal is the ore-rich area of Southern Tuscany, despite ample evidence that Alpine copper ore sources were known and exploited at the time. The experimental results are discussed within the framework of all the available coeval archaeometallurgical data in Central-Southern Europe: they show that the Alps were a neat cultural barrier separating distinct metal circuits. The direct evidence of raw metal or object movement between Central Italy and the Alps is surprising and provides a new perspective on long-distance relocation of goods and relationships between the early Copper Age cultures in the area. The result is in line with the recent investigations re-evaluating the timing and extent of copper production in Central Italy in the 4th millennium BC.

Concepts: Copper, Isotope, Tin, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Alps, Axe


Present day lead pollution is an environmental hazard of global proportions. A correct determination of natural lead levels is very important in order to evaluate anthropogenic lead contributions. In this paper, the anthropogenic signature of early metallurgy in Southern Iberia during the Holocene, more specifically during the Late Prehistory, was assessed by mean of a multiproxy approach: comparison of atmospheric lead pollution, fire regimes, deforestation, mass sediment transport, and archeological data. Although the onset of metallurgy in Southern Iberia is a matter of controversy, here we show the oldest lead pollution record from Western Europe in a continuous paleoenvironmental sequence, which suggests clear lead pollution caused by metallurgical activities since ~3900cal BP (Early Bronze Age). This lead pollution was especially important during Late Bronze and Early Iron ages. At the same time, since ~4000cal BP, an increase in fire activity is observed in this area, which is also coupled with deforestation and increased erosion rates. This study also shows that the lead pollution record locally reached near present-day values many times in the past, suggesting intensive use and manipulation of lead during those periods in this area.

Concepts: Copper, Erosion, Tin, Neolithic, Prehistory, Bronze Age, Smelting, Iron Age


Although in many cases Pb isotopic analysis can be relied on for provenance determination of ancient bronzes, sometimes the use of “non-traditional” isotopic systems, such as those of Cu and Sn, is required. The work reported on in this paper aimed at revising the methodology for Cu and Sn isotope ratio measurements in archaeological bronzes via optimization of the analytical procedures in terms of sample pre-treatment, measurement protocol, precision, and analytical uncertainty. For Cu isotopic analysis, both Zn and Ni were investigated for their merit as internal standard (IS) relied on for mass bias correction. The use of Ni as IS seems to be the most robust approach as Ni is less prone to contamination, has a lower abundance in bronzes and an ionization potential similar to that of Cu, and provides slightly better reproducibility values when applied to NIST SRM 976 Cu isotopic reference material. The possibility of carrying out direct isotopic analysis without prior Cu isolation (with AG-MP-1 anion exchange resin) was investigated by analysis of CRM IARM 91D bronze reference material, synthetic solutions, and archaeological bronzes. Both procedures (Cu isolation/no Cu isolation) provide similar δ (65)Cu results with similar uncertainty budgets in all cases (±0.02-0.04 per mil in delta units, k = 2, n = 4). Direct isotopic analysis of Cu therefore seems feasible, without evidence of spectral interference or matrix-induced effect on the extent of mass bias. For Sn, a separation protocol relying on TRU-Spec anion exchange resin was optimized, providing a recovery close to 100 % without on-column fractionation. Cu was recovered quantitatively together with the bronze matrix with this isolation protocol. Isotopic analysis of this Cu fraction provides δ (65)Cu results similar to those obtained upon isolation using AG-MP-1 resin. This means that Cu and Sn isotopic analysis of bronze alloys can therefore be carried out after a single chromatographic separation using TRU-Spec resin. Tin isotopic analysis was performed relying on Sb as an internal standard used for mass bias correction. The reproducibility over a period of 1 month (n = 42) for the mass bias-corrected Sn isotope ratios is in the range of 0.06-0.16 per mil (2 s), for all the ratios monitored.

Concepts: Scientific method, Zinc, Copper, Analytical chemistry, Isotope, Bronze, Tin, Bronze Age


OBJECTIVE: Paleoneurosurgery represents a comparatively new developing direction of neurosurgery dealing with archaeological skull and spine finds and studying their neurosurgical aspects. Trepanation of the cranial vault was a widespread surgical procedure in antiquity and the most convincing evidence of the ancient origin of neurosurgery. The present study considers a case of trepanation from the Middle Bronze Age Greece (1900- 1600 B.C.). METHODS: The skull under study belongs to skeletal material unearthed from Kirra, Delphi (Central Greece). Macroscopic examination and palpation, as well as three-dimensional Computed Tomography were used in this study. RESULTS: There is osteological evidence that the skull belongs to a male individual that died 30-35 years old. The procedure of trepanation was performed on the right parietal bone. Both macroscopic and CT evaluation demonstrate an intravital bone reaction at the edges of the aperture. Projected on the right surface of the brain, the trepanation is located on the level of the central groove. The small dimensions and the symmetrical shape of this hole give us an indication that it was made by a metal tool. CONCLUSION: The authors conclude that this paleopathological case provides valuable information about the condition of life and the pre-hippocratic neurosurgical practice in Bronze Age Greece.

Concepts: Bone, Surgery, Skull, Slovakia, Neurosurgery, Tin, Ancient Egypt, Bronze Age


Hybrid two-dimensional (2D) organic-inorganic perovskites continue to draw increased attention in view of their outstanding performance in optoelectronic devices such as solar cells and light-emitting devices. Herein, for the first time, we report the synthesis and characterization of lead-free, 2D mixed Ge-Sn halide perovskites, (PEA)2Ge1-xSnxI4 (where PEA = C6H5CH2CH2NH3+), and demonstrate that the bandgaps decrease linearly with increasing Sn content. Most importantly, among them, (PEA)2Ge0.5Sn0.5I4 possesses the smallest bandgap of 1.95 eV. Density functional theory calculations confirm that Sn substitution induces a smaller bandgap and more dispersed band structure, which are desirable characteristics of light-absorbing materials. In addition, conductivity and stability of (PEA)2Ge0.5Sn0.5I4 have also been assessed.

Concepts: Density functional theory, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Germanium, Lead, Photodiode, Tin, Band gap


In the deepest section of a large complex cave in the northern Negev desert, Israel, a bi-conical lead object was found logged onto a wooden shaft. Associated material remains and radiocarbon dating of the shaft place the object within the Late Chalcolithic period, at the late 5th millennium BCE. Based on chemical and lead isotope analysis, we show that this unique object was made of almost pure metallic lead, likely smelted from lead ores originating in the Taurus range in Anatolia. Either the finished object, or the raw material, was brought to the southern Levant, adding another major component to the already-rich Late Chalcolithic metallurgical corpus known to-date. The paper also discusses possible uses of the object, suggesting that it may have been used as a spindle whorl, at least towards its deposition.

Concepts: Chemical element, Copper, Lead, Tin, Israel, Fertile Crescent, Ore, Spindle


A geostatistical model to predict human skeletal oxygen isotope values (δ(18)Op) in Britain is presented here based on a new dataset of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age human teeth. The spatial statistics which underpin this model allow the identification of individuals interpreted as ‘non-local’ to the areas where they were buried (spatial outliers). A marked variation in δ(18)Op is observed in several areas, including the Stonehenge region, the Peak District, and the Yorkshire Wolds, suggesting a high degree of human mobility. These areas, rich in funerary and ceremonial monuments, may have formed focal points for people, some of whom would have travelled long distances, ultimately being buried there. The dataset and model represent a baseline for future archaeological studies, avoiding the complex conversions from skeletal to water δ(18)O values-a process known to be problematic.

Concepts: Copper, Teeth, Tin, Neolithic, Prehistory, Bronze Age, Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures, Three-age system