Reconstruction of Bronze Age copper smelting, experiments based on archaeological evidence from Timna, Israel.
Using both simulation and reconstruction
experiments, this research investigates the
archaeo-rnetallurgical evidence for copper smelting
during the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age at Timna, Israel.
Historical and ethnographic descriptions of copper
smelting are examined in order to suggest how the
ancient furnace remains may have been operated. A
review of previous copper smelting experiments is
Six campaigns of smelting experiments have been
completed to evaluate better the major operational
variables. The emphasis of this research was the
duplication of' the ancient metallurgical products using
appropriate materials and techniques. The furnace
dimensions were based on the archaeological remains from
Timna Site 2. Arrangements of one, two and three
tuyeres were tested. Several types of manually operated
bellows were compared. Molten slag tapped from the
furnace was made to exhibit structures similar to those
found at Timna. The copper produced from the smelting
experiments contained a high proportion of iron.
Refining was necessary to approach the chemical
composition and physical appearance of ancient copper
specimens. Further experiments were conducted to cast
piano-convex, bar and oxhide-shaped copper ingots.
In the laboratory, modern materials and analytical
methods were gradually replaced for the proposed copper
smelting recoristructions. During September 1981, two
experimental reconstructioris were conducted under
primitive conditions at Timna Site 2.
The metallurgical products from the smelting
experiments were analysed using emission spectrometry
(ICP), x-ray diffraction and visual-light microscopy.
Trace element partitioning during copper smelting and
refining is further studied.
It is concluded that improvements in bellows
efficiency allowed increased furnace volumes with
greater copper production throughout the Bronze Age. A
process-related typology for tapped slags is proposed.
Piano-convex copper ingots do not represent primary
smelting products, but rather secondary refined
aggregates intended for trade.